More investment in data and statistics needed in Africa – ECA

Statistics is  an “aggregation of a collection of numbers” and value-added data that could be interpreted for some use."

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The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has emphasised the need to invest in effective data and statistical systems on the continent.

ECA’s Director of the Africa Center for Statistics (ACS), Oliver Chinganya, made the declaration in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Tuesday.

Chinganya was speaking with the ECA’s communication team on the sidelines of the 55th session of the ECA.

He quoted current research as saying that Africa was set to miss most of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) if adequate action was not taken.

 “Data is a public good, the new oil, the gold that Africa must invest in to support its development

“The mission of the Africa Centre for Statistics is to enable national statistical systems in Africa to produce high-quality statistics, data and geospatial information.

“To inform sound and evidence decision-making in support of sustainable development, regional and national priorities.

“We need to invest in data and statistics to support Africa’s industrialisation agenda,” Chinganya said.

The director gave more insights into the role of data and statistical systems in the development of Africa, particularly in the achievement of SDGs.

According to him, data is the collection of information put into numbers. When you manipulate those numbers and create averages, they turn into statistics.

He described statistics as  an “aggregation of a collection of numbers” and value-added data that could be interpreted for some use.”

Chinganya said the state of data and statistics on the continent had improved compared to over 20 years ago when data was poor and nearly non-existent in some cases.

He noted that much more could be done to make data available, but overall, many countries were progressing well.

Chinganya, who said many countries were yet to conduct the 2020 census, explained that if not conducted, reporting of the SDGs and other development frameworks, including the national development plans, would be altered.

“A census is the count of all people residing within a territory. The purpose of that is to help countries plan for the people in that particular territory.

“Some countries have not prioritised this. To date, 21 countries in Africa have not conducted their censuses, and most of them are unlikely to complete them before 2024,’’ he said.

Chinganya said for AfCTA to drive the transformational agenda on the continent, we must understand what each country was producing or trading in terms of items, volumes and comparative advantages.

“And for that to be possible, you need data,’’ he said.