African Centre for Statistics urges for more investment in modern data collection processes
The planning process of long-term development in any country would be on a shaky foundation if the data and statistics are not readily available and are of poor quality. It is also critical that they are not only harmonized but also coordinated among government agencies that produce and store them.
The state of statistics in most of African countries falls short of what is required to inform an effective planning of sustainable development. The situation calls for urgent actions to scale-up statistical support and in building sustainable statistical capacity in countries.
High level political commitment is essential in raising awareness about the importance of statistics given the many competing demands for resources if the necessary changes are to be made to improve the effective production and use in Africa.
Mr. Bwalya Ng'andu, the Deputy Governor in charge of Operations in the Bank of Zambia, noted that researchers of any country would have difficulty to find data from Ministry of Health, Ministry of planning, Ministry of Finance, Central Bank or from any other agency if the coordination among those institutions is not good.
Mr Ng'andu was speaking at a meeting that discussed how to address data gaps for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) economic indicators in Africa during the Addis Ababa Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.
Ng'andu said that poor storage of data also makes it difficult to know which data is available, "It's not surprising that sometimes we collect and store data, but cannot locate specific information we need”, he said. “It is like an unmarked grave in a graveyard. It is a bit challenging".
At Addis Ababa meeting, Mr Oliver Chinganya, Director of African Centre for Statistics at UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) called for African countries to strengthen their National statistical systems, improve coordination between the statistical lead agency, related line ministries, and other data producers.
Chinganya said that of the 240 indicators composing the Sustainable Development Goals monitoring framework, 63 of them are economic in nature or require economic and financial statistics. "Therefore, African countries must be able to benchmark economic data efficiently and see year on year progress in achieving the SDGs. If you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it", he said, adding that we need data and statistics that speak facts.
International statistical methodologies are critical to ensuring quality data.
The participants at the meeting discussed also the importance of adopting and standardizing the way information is collected and processed and the need to explore new technologies. "This to avoid inconsistencies with international statistical standards and non-comparability of the results" noted Mr David Boko, a Statistician at African Centre for Statistics.
According to the Centre, a number of countries on the continent lack sufficient statistical production architecture, adequate technological resources, macro-data collection processes.
"The adaptation and use of modern technologies would ensure quality data but it will require plans to invest in technical capacities and adequate IT resources ", highlighted, Boko.
The African Centre for Statistics provides technical assistance to countries in establishing efficient statistical infrastructure for the collection, processing, compilation, analysis, dissemination, and archiving of economic statistics and national accounts.