Invest In National Statistical Systems To Deliver On A Data Revolution In Africa

July 25, 2014


A 26 Member African-Led Working Group is Urging sub-Saharan African Governments to Invest in National Statistical Systems

Africa – Despite improvements in censuses and household surveys, the building blocks of national statistical systems in sub-Saharan Africa remain weak, according to a new report charting a clear path for “Delivering on a Data Revolution in Sub-Saharan Africa”. It’s all very well calling for a revolution in data for use in Africa’s development and population decisions, but what might such a revolution involve?

This timely report, launched on this year’s world population day, examines why a data revolution is so crucial now, in the lead up to the post-2015 agenda; where previous efforts to improve data systems, quality and access have succeeded and where they have created perverse incentives; and how national governments, donors, and civil society can accelerate progress.

Governments, regional bodies, and international institutions need good data on basic development metrics to plan, budget and evaluate their activities. National systems for capturing fundamental development measures such as birth registration and cause of death, growth and poverty, taxes and trade, land use and the environment, and sickness, schooling, and safety face four major challenges: (1) national statistics offices have limited independence and unstable budgets, (2) misaligned incentives encourage the production of inaccurate data, (3) donor priorities dominate national priorities, and (4) access to and usability of data are limited.

To overcome these challenges, the report proposes that actions in pursuit of a data revolution should be country-specific and government-led:  For a truly sustainable data revolution in Sub-Saharan Africa, changes must be initiated and led inside governments in coordination with donors and civil society.  To this end, the Working Group has identified three strategies:

1. Fund more and fund differently by allocating more domestic funding to improving national statistics (thus reducing donor dependency) and experimenting with pay-for-performance agreements with donors to enhance mutual accountability for progress on improving the core statistical products

2. Build institutions that can produce accurate, unbiased data by enhancing the functional autonomy of national statistical offices, and experiment with new institutional models like public-private partnerships to improve data collection and dissemination.

3. Prioritize the accuracy, timeliness and availability of the data building blocks by building quality control mechanisms into data collection and analysis and encouraging open data.

The report and its recommendations for actualizing a data revolution in Africa are a product of the Data for African Development Working Group, a joint effort of the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) and the Center for Global Development (CGD).

For interviews with Dr. Alex Ezeh, co-Chair Data for Africa Development Working Group and Executive Director at the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC), Email:; Tel: +254 – 020 – 4001000; Cell: +254 – 722 205 933;