Africa’s statisticians make historic declaration on Robben Island

Dr. Grace Bediako of Ghana leading Africa's statisticians to make the declaration.

In a historic, dramatic moment Monday January 23, 2012, statisticians from all over Africa with some colleagues from other parts of the world including the main funder of the Statistical Commission for Africa, the African Development Bank (AfDB) met on Robben Island in John Craig Hall to make a declaration.

Robben Island was  the prison camp where the world’s most popular and highly respected political prisoner and later the first black President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela was held for 18 years. Some of the political prisoners who couldn’t stand the inhuman treatment at Robben Island, succumbed to cruel death from torture in the hands of the Apartheid regime and deprivation and sometimes slow death from communicable diseases.

The statisticians led by Ghana’s Government Statistician, Dr. Grace Bediako who chaired StatCom Africa III in Cape Town, South Africa and other executives including the Statistician-General of South Africa, Mr. Pali Lehohla, and the Director of the African Centre for Statistics of the Economic Commission of Africa (ECA) Mr. Dimitri Sanga made a declaration that is set to change the face of statistics on the continent and put the discipline in mainstream political decision and action.

The statisticians after 10 days of meeting under the theme: “Improving Civil Registeration & Vital Statistics Institutional & Human Infrastructure in Africa,” recognised the crucial role of agricultural statistics in dealing with the challenges of food security and climate change; welcomed the mobilization of $100 million by the AfDB for the continent’s Statistical Capacity Building Programme III, recommended the establishment of a working group on Environmental Statistics and urged African countries to ensure that they properly account for resources allocated to them by development partners.

The group called on heads of National Statistical Offices on the continent to work with national stakeholders to implement national frameworks for coordination of labour market statistics, mobilise resources for those activities, and undertake annual labour force surveys, starting in 2012.

As part of the effort to inch towards the goal of making statistics a central part of development agenda on the continent, the group called upon African countries to take the necessary steps to sign and ratify the African Charter on Statistics and incorporate its principles into the national strategy for the development of statistics (NSDS) and relevant national strategies.

The group declared that it has adopted the action plan known as the Strategy for the Harmonisation of Statistics in Africa (SHaSA), urging African countries to incorporate the provisions of SHaSA into NSDS.

Highly optimistic, members of the continental group believe, this declaration will catapult statistics into becoming an important part of the development agenda in Africa and be included in the efforts to attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The next meeting of the continent’s statisticians will be hosted by Ivory Coast in 2013, after the Ministerial Conference in South Africa in September 2012.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi, in Cape Town South Africa

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