By Aziza Modise with support from Natalie Tannous  

I have witnessed the amazing contributions that the Africa Centre for Evidence (ACE) has made, both in South Africa and throughout the region. In 2020 I was part of the team at ACE that formally embarked on two research projects that focused on capturing ACE’s stakeholders’ perceptions and experiences of this contribution to evidence-informed decisionmaking (EIDM) 

The first project I will be drawing on focused on ACE’s history: the origins of the centre, the work our teams do in the EIDM space, and through ACE, the University of Johannesburgs subsequent role in the evidence ecosystem of South Africa. The second focused on capturing stories of change from within the Africa Evidence Network (AEN), ACE forms part of the secretariat of this network, where members reflected on the impact of the network in their personal and professional lives.  During these projects, I conducted interviews among ACE staff (previous and current), members of the AEN, and our partners. The stories I heard paint a rich picture of ACE’s contribution to the African and South African EIDM space that I want to now share with you. And so, I will be writing a nine-part blog series that will be published on the 10th of each month. We’re calling this series ‘Five years of ACEing it’; I hope you will enjoy it with me.  

Home of the Africa Centre for Evidence, University of Johannesburg, South Africa

Exploring ACE’s contribution to EIDM in Africa 

Off the back of these two projects, this blog series will serve multiple purposes. Foremost, we hope the series will contribute to the advocacy of African EIDM throughout the globe. We want to share our successes and learnings in this space to support mutual learning about and strengthening of the evidence ecosystem(s) in Africa. We hope this series will demonstrate the central role that decision-makers play in extending the footprint of EIDM throughout Africa. And finally, we are sure that you will see that everything we have achieved in almost five years of existence has been because of working together with others.  

As you will learn, ACE’s current structure has evolved organically from the nature of our work. This four-portfolio structure functions to allow trailblazing contributions on the EIDM space in a holistic and values-based way. As we share our understanding of who we are, we hope that our work will be showcased in this series. We aim for you to share in our excitement, dedication, frustrations, joy, and exhaustion as you get a peek inside the inner workings of our organisation. You’ll learn about the short learning programme on EIDM that will turn traditional learning on its head, and how our team has supported the institutionalisation of evidence in South African government. Our work on synthesis continues to ensure there is best evidence on what works and doesn`t work, and because policy makers are involved in the process of producing evidence, the evidence is always relevant.  

There will also be lessons to share about how the AEN pivoted during a global pandemic to offer one of the first completely online EIDM events for over 400 individuals from around the world, and you’ll gain access to decades worth of insight about understanding the nuanced art and science of supporting EIDM in Africa.  

In this series, we will:

ACE staff enjoying conversations around a campfire

  • Introduce you to the beginnings of ACE – why the name, what we are, and why we care about EIDM 
  • Tell you what we think our contribution to EIDM in South Africa, the region, and the world has been 
  • Investigate the AEN, how it came about, and what it has been up to recently 
  • The growth and expansion of evidence synthesis for us
  • Interrogate how evidence synthesis has supported the institutionalisation of EIDM in the South African government
  • Explore what it means to enhance EIDM capacities 
  • Showcase how relationships are a powerful tool for harnessing the best ways to work together to support EIDM 
  • Forecast what ACE, and the African and South African EIDM landscape could look like in ten years’ time
  • Demonstrate how communities can be drawn on to change how we develop capacities for EIDM in Africa  

As we embark on this series and share these projects with you, I hope you as our audience will enjoy the journey with me. Who I am? I am Aziza Modise, and you can think of me as a storyteller sharing with you the history of where ACE comes from, where we find ourselves currently, and the future we hope to contribute to building. Join me as our partner, member, current or future funder, and friend as I take you through time to share with you the history of ACE.  


The views expressed in published blog posts, as well as any errors or omissions, are the sole responsibility of the author/s and do not represent the views of the Africa Centre for Evidence, its executive management, advisory or reference groups, or its funders; nor does it imply endorsement by the afore-mentioned parties. 

Suggested citation

Modise A & Tannous N. 9 April 2021. Blog post: Five years of ACEing it – how did it start, what does it mean, and where are we going? Available at: