Africa must invest in solid statistical systems for sustainable development

Ethiopia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr. Demeke Mekonnen, has called on the community of African statisticians and data experts to come up with a road map for the reform and modernization of the continent’s official statistical systems to provide reliable information for informed decision making.

Addressing the joint opening session of back-to-back meetings taking place this week in Addis Ababa as part of the eighth Statistical Commission for Africa (STATCOM), Mr. Mekonen stressed the need for “comprehensive tools that can enable governments to create and execute the policies required to achieve the digital goals needed for regional integration as efficiently as possible. Organized under the theme: “Modernizing data ecosystem in Africa to support regional integration”, the Eighth Statistical Commission for Africa seeks to strengthen the inter-related natural linkages between data, statistics and civil registration.

“It is unfortunate that Africa continues to have the highest proportion of unregistered births and deaths in the world, said the Deputy Prime Minister, noting that in the COVID-19 Pandemic period, only a handful of countries were capable of producing sufficient quality mortality and cause of death statistics to guide public health decision-making and planning. “This situation, which has endured for a very long time, must change, and this event should define the steps Africa must take to stop the tragedy of invisibility,” he added.

Through its Statistics Service, Ethiopia has made significant progress in electronic collection and transfer of data using PDAs, CAPIs and tablets for surveys, censuses and transmission of data, greatly reducing costs and human resource demands, said the Deputy Prime Minister. Furthermore, the country’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) is now being released between the first and fifth days of the month – marking a significant improvement in timeliness. More work is underway to collect new data for monitoring national plans and SDGs, including agriculture, migration, urban agriculture pilots, livestock, production and postharvest loss.

Touching on some key aspects of this week’s theme, Mr. Oliver Chinganya, Director of the ECA’s African Centre for Statistics bemoaned the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on civil registration and vital statistics systems, particularly in Africa, leading to the absence of vital data.  “Data and statistics have never been more significant than they are now – they are needed to influence policies and measure progress to attain the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development as well as the African Union Agenda 2063,” Mr. Chinganya said.

He stressed the importance of modernizing Africa’s data for facilitating regional integration and for “enhancing the accuracy and efficiency of decision-making in support of a stronger regional integration in the continent, arguing that barriers to economic progress can only be overcome through a reliable data ecosystem.

Mr. Chinganya challenged African countries to “participate in creative and innovative methods to solve some of the major obstacles facing National Statistics Offices such as limited funding, insufficient personnel, inadequate Information Technology infrastructure, and inadequate legislative framework.”

On the integration of geography and statistics under the auspices of United Nations Global Geospatial Information Management for Africa, he called for a change in “the way we generate and package data and statistics to guarantee that the narrative of Africa’s progress is properly captured,” and pledged ECA’s commitment to providing technical assistance to member countries to restructure and modernize their statistics systems.

In a keynote address at the Eighth Session of the Statistical Commission for Africa, Chris Baryomunsi, Uganda Minister for ICT and National Guidance stressed “the need to develop agile statistical systems that are resilient to crises such as COVID – which heavily impacted statistical production and National Statistical Systems.”

He emphasized the need to improve administrative data and civil registration systems which together account for up to 70% of the data required to monitor national development processes.

“It has been declared a ‘scandal of immense proportion’ that at the turn of the third millennium, few countries in Africa have complete civil registration systems. This scandal has had serious implications for vital statistics, human and constitutional rights, policy and national development,” said Mr. Baryomunsi.

Source: ECA

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