Africa needs data collection upgrade

By Olisemeka Obeche

Africa requires $70 million additional investment per annum to improve data collection and policy-making capabilities, says the Chief Economist and Vice President of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), Professor Mthuli Ncube.

Contributing to the seminar discourse ‘Towards Better Economic Policy Making: Strengthening Africa’s Data’ on the sidelines of 2013 Annual Meetings of the World Bank and the IMF in Washington D.C. on Friday, Prof. Ncube declared that despite appreciable improvements over the years, Africa’s socio-economic development has been largely hampered by inadequate and unreliable statistics.

“There is still much work to be done,” the economist says. According to him, the pan-African Bank he works for has invested heavily towards improving data gathering and use. His words: “At the African Development Bank, we recognized the importance of getting quality data and statistics and we have invested hundreds of millions in helping member-countries improve the quality of data collection over the last 10 years.”

Rwandan Finance and Economic Planning Minister Mr Claver Gatete agrees that Africa may not experience structural transformation and inclusive growth if it continues to work with spurious statistics.  “Rwanda has made great progress in terms of quality of statistics; that is why we are now ranked 2nd in Sub-Saharan African and 3rd in Africa in terms of quality of statistics. And that is equally impacting positively on our socio-economic development process,” he says.

For Mr Morten Jerven, author of ‘Poor Numbers: How We Are Misled by African Development Statistics and What to Do about It’, lack of credible statistics and uneven application of data methodologies remain a major challenge that African policy leaders and their development partners must first tackle for genuine progress to be made.

He is worried that many African governments still do not update their baseline statistics every five years in accordance with international best practice.

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