What Matters in Statistical Development: A Focus on Official Statistics in Africa

22 April 2024

In the quest for sustainable development, the pivotal role of robust statistical systems in Africa cannot be overstated. As the continent strives to navigate through its development pathways, delineated by both the African Union's Agenda 2063 and the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the demand for high-quality, timely, and accessible data has surged to unprecedented levels. This comprehensive analysis delves into the intricacies of statistical development in Africa, identifying key priorities and leveraging insights from authoritative sources to chart a course towards a resilient and dynamic statistical ecosystem.

Central to Africa's statistical development agenda is the enhancement of statistical capacity and infrastructure. The continent's statistical offices face myriad challenges, ranging from inadequate funding and outdated technological resources to a dearth of skilled personnel. Addressing these challenges necessitates a multifaceted approach that encompasses both the modernization of statistical infrastructure and the bolstering of human capacity. The African Union, in collaboration with the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), underscores the critical need for comprehensive capacity-building strategies that are tailored to meet the unique demands of each member state (Africa Union, ECA, 2019). Such strategies should prioritize the development of statistical infrastructure, the adoption of cutting-edge technologies, and the cultivation of a skilled workforce capable of navigating the complexities of contemporary data ecosystems.


Leveraging Big Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence


The advent of digital technologies has ushered in a new era of possibilities for statistical data collection and analysis. Mobile technologies, satellite imagery, and advanced computing methodologies have the potential to dramatically enhance the efficiency, coverage, and accuracy of statistical operations. The integration of these technologies into Africa's statistical framework can significantly mitigate traditional barriers to data collection, offering a cost-effective and timely approach to data acquisition (Food and Agriculture Organization, 2019). Moreover, leveraging big data analytics and artificial intelligence can provide deeper insights into complex development phenomena, enabling policymakers to make informed decisions based on comprehensive and nuanced data analyses.

Another aspect relates to fostering a culture of data use and statistical literacy. The utility of statistical data extends beyond the confines of national statistical offices and reaches into the broader spectrum of societal stakeholders, including policymakers, the private sector, civil society, and the public. Cultivating a culture of data use and literacy is imperative for ensuring that statistical information effectively informs development policies, programs, and initiatives. This entails not only making statistical data readily accessible and understandable to a wide array of users but also enhancing the analytical capabilities of data consumers (Economic Commission for Europe, 2019). Empowering users with the skills to interpret and apply statistical data in their respective domains can significantly amplify the impact of statistics on development outcomes.


 Strengthening Statistical Laws and Regulations


Strengthening statistical legislation and governance is critical to providing credible and trusted data. The credibility and reliability of statistical data are contingent upon the existence of robust legal frameworks and governance structures. Establishing comprehensive statistical legislation and governance mechanisms is essential for safeguarding the quality, confidentiality, and impartiality of official statistics. Such frameworks also play a critical role in ensuring the independence and autonomy of national statistical offices, thereby enhancing public trust in statistical outputs (Conference of European Statisticians, 2019). In this context, African countries are encouraged to review and strengthen their statistical laws and regulations, aligning them with international best practices and standards.

Related to ensuring a robust statistical legislation is promoting regional and international collaboration. The complexities of statistical development in Africa necessitate a collaborative approach that transcends national boundaries. Regional and international partnerships provide a platform for sharing knowledge, experiences, and resources, facilitating the harmonization of statistical methodologies and standards across the continent. The Strategy for the Harmonization of Statistics in Africa (SHaSA 2), spearheaded by the African Union and ECA, exemplifies the commitment to fostering collaboration among African nations, with the aim of enhancing the comparability, quality, and utility of statistical information across the continent (Africa Union, ECA, 2019).

Finally, what matters in statistical development now is also how the continent addresses the data demands to inform the SDGs. The ambitious targets set forth by the SDGs pose significant challenges for Africa's statistical systems. The comprehensive monitoring and evaluation frameworks associated with this agenda including the agenda 2063 require a broad range of indicators, necessitating the collection and analysis of vast quantities of data. Meeting these demands calls for innovative data collection methodologies, enhanced data integration and interoperability, and the development of indicators that are both relevant and adaptable to the African context (United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, 2019). Therefore, prioritization the enhancement of statistical capacity and infrastructure, embracing technological innovations, fostering a culture of data use and literacy, strengthening statistical legislation and governance, and promoting regional and international collaboration is critical. It would allow Africa to lay the groundwork for a resilient and dynamic statistical system. Such a system is not only capable of meeting the current data demands but also adaptable to the evolving needs of sustainable development. As Africa continues to advance towards its development goals, the strategic priorities outlined herein provide a blueprint for harnessing the transformative power of statistics in driving progress and prosperity across the continent.

Oliver Chinganya
Executive Committee Vice-President