Strengthening National and Sub-National Data Systems in Africa: Gates Data System Project

June 3, 2024

In most African countries, service delivery for critical social sectors is devolved to sub-national administrative units. Budget and program implementation decisions, including personnel recruitment, purchase of goods and services, and actual service delivery, with the national level providing policy direction and financial resources, are made at this level. Given this decentralized form of service delivery, monitoring progress and tracking performance for evidence-based decision-making, particularly at sub-national levels, which automatically have similar effects at national levels, is important.

Since 2020, APHRC, in collaboration with Local Implementing Partners (LIPs) in Burkina Faso, Niger, Senegal, and Uganda, has been strengthening national and sub-national data systems through the Gates Data System project.

The project aims to fill evident gaps in national data ecosystems through the implementation of catalytic micro-examples to strengthen subnational data systems in these countries and create opportunities for youth employment and Africa-led growth. It further seeks to address the data demand and supply needs in collaboration with local implementing partners in selected subnational administrative units in the countries.

Despite the delays brought by COVID-19, the project has made significant progress in implementing the following outcome areas in the year 2023. They include strengthening sub-national data systems that respond to actual needs and are domesticated and implemented by local capacities, enhancing the efficiency of sub-national data value chains, enhancing sub-national youth employment and productivity, and increasing cross-country learning and sharing experiences through knowledge and learning platforms, regional data hub and multi-country exchanges.

Regular peer learning and experience sharing have been integral to the project’s ground-based implementation approach. LIPs hold several meetings at national and local levels, and APHRC gathers all of them annually for a Country Meeting.

The first annual inter-country workshop took place during the project’s inception meeting on March 14-16, 2022, in Dakar, Senegal. The second workshop, held from May 3-6, 2023, in Kampala, Uganda, showcased significant milestones in developing and deploying sub-national data systems. The third annual meeting, held May 6-10, 2024, in Nairobi, Kenya, assessed the progress of LIPs’ country projects, shared inter-country and intra-country experiences, and planned the future of the project as it nears its end in 2024. Participants included representatives from each of the seven LIPs across the four countries and members from most of the 17 partner sub-national administrative units hosting pilot projects.

This latest meeting in Nairobi, likely the last of the project’s cycle, was more action-oriented. It focused on identifying emerging indicators of progress, demonstrating each LIP’s achievements and impact on the data value chain, assessing youth inclusion in the projects, and evaluating the current status of the data systems and dashboards.  

To aid LIPs and their subnational partners in maintaining the focus of each day’s objective, the project team at APHRC developed pre-workshop guiding questions and sent them to each speaker to help them prepare better.

All LIPs have supported their respective subnational hosts to manage their data collection and management practices with varying degrees of success. These efforts range from setting up data management committees at the sub-national level, organizing periodic meetings to review data quality to better inform decision-making processes, developing dashboards and scorecards, alignment of local indicators with the regional, communal, district, and national development plans, as well as consistent capacity building to support staff of these subnational units use these newly introduced methods.

As the Gates Data Systems project is coming to an end, its outcomes have set the groundwork for the Knowledge Innovation Exchange-Strengthening and Enhancing Education Data Systems (KIX-SEEDS) project. Launched in May 2024, the KIX-SEEDS project has been designed to build upon the efforts of the Gates Data Systems project, amplifying impact and ensuring continuity and growth in strengthening education data systems across Uganda, Senegal, and Burkina Faso. This new project aims to increase local appreciation of the role of technology in education data usage and decision-making through the introduction of Centralized systems for data aggregation. Enhancing these education data systems could not come at a more pertinent time than now, when institutions and governments are racing to ensure every child has access to quality education. Even more important is recognizing that the availability of timely and quality education data both at national and sub-national levels is key to informing policy formulation and implementation.

The Gates Data Systems project has made significant contributions to enhancing data systems in Africa, setting a strong foundation for initiatives like KIX-SEEDS. The collaborative efforts of APHRC and local partners have created a sustainable model for data-driven decision-making, youth employment, and regional growth. The Gates Data Systems legacy will continue to influence and improve data management practices and policies across the continent.