Despite improvements in censuses and household surveys, the building blocks of national statistical systems in sub-Saharan Africa remain weak. Measurement of fundamental statistics such as births and deaths, growth and poverty, taxes and trade, land and the environment, and sickness, schooling, and safety is shaky at best.
The nascent post-2015 UN development agenda is generating momentum for a worldwide “data revolution,” and shining a much-needed light on the need for better development data in Africa and elsewhere. The Center for Global Development (CGD) and the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) co-chaired the Data for African Development Working Group to explore the root causes and challenges surrounding slow progress on data in Sub-Saharan Africa and identify three strategies to address them.
The challenges are fourfold:
(1) national statistics offices have limited independence and unstable budgets, leaving them vulnerable to political and interest group pressure, and less able to produce reliable, accurate, and unbiased statistics,
(2) misaligned incentives encourage the production of inaccurate data,
(3) donor priorities dominate national priorities,
(4) access to and usability of data are limited.
The Working Groups’ strategies for reaping the benefits of a data revolution in Africa fall into three categories:
(1) fund more and fund differently,
(2) build institutions that can produce accurate, unbiased data,
(3) prioritize the core attributes of data building blocks.
This report reflects the unique perspectives and expertise of each institution—CGD’s focus on donor policies and practices, APHRC’s experience with country-level challenges in Africa—as well as the working group members who contributed. The recommendations aim to help build the foundation for a true Africa-led and sustainable data revolution.