The Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) commissioned SEO Amsterdam Economics (SEO) and MDF Training & Consultancy (MDF) to carry out the mid-term evaluation (MTE) of its Private Sector Development (PSD) Toolkit and the end-line evaluation of its predecessor, PSD Apps.

Both programmes were implemented by RVO on behalf of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA, cluster DDE) to support embassies in the creation of a business-enabling environment, removing trade barriers and matching local and Dutch business partners. The PSD Toolkit replaced PSD Apps in 2019, with less focus on Dutch businesses and a stronger focus on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Sahel countries. Its main goals are (a) strengthening local private sectors, with – where possible – the use of Dutch knowledge and skills; and (b) enhancing the impact of the PSD programmes of RVO and other Dutch development cooperation programmes.

The main objective of this MTE was to learn from the past and distil recommendations for improving the programmes in the future. SEO and MDF carried out the MTE between March and December 2022.

Key findings
The evaluation team concluded that PSD Toolkit/Apps as a whole has (thus far) performed well against the OECD-DAC evaluation criteria, with opportunities for further improvements in the areas of external coherence and sustainability:

    • Relevance: PSD Toolkit/Apps projects were largely relevant for national PSD priorities. However, the relevance for Dutch embassies (economic diplomacy) sometimes dominated as PSD Toolkit interventions were not always clearly demand driven (from programme countries’ perspective). Furthermore, PSD Toolkit projects were often relevant for Dutch companies (through the focus on sectors in which the Netherlands has a comparative advantage) but less so for the cross-cutting goals including SDGs.
    • Coherence: The internal coherence of PSD Toolkit projects improved since PSD Apps. Although there were still numerous stand-alone interventions, PSD Toolkit did a better job at linking projects to each other. However, external coherence can still be improved as there was no structural coordination with other development partners, resulting in signs of overlap.
    • Effectiveness: PSD Toolkit was most effective in terms of economic diplomacy (outcome pathway 3). In terms of direct support to the private sector (outcome pathway 1) and improving the enabling environment (outcome pathway 2), PSD interventions were effective in delivering outputs and short-term outcomes, but contributions to higher level outcomes and impacts remained small or ambiguous.
    • Sustainability: PSD Toolkit paid more attention to sustainability than PSD Apps. The PSD Toolkit team’s efforts to interlink PSD Toolkit projects increased the likelihood of sustainable impact, but the extent of follow-up (from Toolkit itself or other PSD initiatives) was not systematically monitored.
    • Efficiency: Approval and mobilisation processes were generally efficient, but the monitoring and management was often perceived as a burdensome (as proportionate to the size of projects). Overall, project approval and implementation was generally timely and cost-effective, and many stakeholders valued both Apps and Toolkit for its speed and flexibility.

SEO and MDF evaluated the PSD Toolkit/Apps according to the OECD-DAC evaluation criteria, looking at both the programme and project level. At both levels, the evaluation team triangulated a mix of quantitative and qualitative information sources in order to arrive at an overall assessment:

  • Programme-level assessment:
    • Analysis of the available M&E data for the entire portfolio
    • Extensive desk research and in-depth interviews with programme level stakeholders
    • Large survey among a wide variety of stakeholders (including implementing partners, PSD coaches, PSD partners and MFA representatives)
  • Project-level assessment:
    • Extended document review of a sample of 121 projects;
    • Five in-depth case studies (“Deep Dives”) in Burkina Faso, Morocco, Nigeria, Uganda, and Vietnam.