Africa needs modern African statistical systems, Ethiopian President

The seventh meeting of the Statistical Commission for Africa (StatCom7) opened virtually on Tuesday with a clarion call from Ethiopia’s President Sahle-Work Zewde for Africa to urgently transform and modernize its national statistical systems, especially in light of the continuing novel coronavirus pandemic.

In remarks to officially open the meeting, Ms. Zewde said African governments need to provide more support and budgets for modernizing national statistical offices for evidence-based planning and decision making. “The transformation of national statistical systems in Africa is more important now than ever before as we fight against the pandemic and as we look to build stronger and better systems. Therefore, access to technology by national statistical systems must be promoted in all African countries in view of accelerating the production and use of data and statistics as public good,” she said.

Ms. Zewde continued: “African governments should play a significant role by allocating enough and sustainable budgets to national statistical offices to enable them to provide quality data. We invite our development partners to support the efforts of governments to modernize the national statistical offices, which includes digitalization.”

She said national statistical offices on the continent should provide appropriate quality data to support continental initiatives such as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the global 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for informed and effective planning.

The President shared with the meeting Ethiopia’s efforts to modernize its national statistical system and related issues.

Ms. Zewde said the importance of national statistical systems has been highlighted more during the pandemic as they provide essential data, statistical services and information useful in understanding the impact and reach of COVID-19.

“It is therefore imperative that producers of official statistics must transform and modernize their work in order to adequately respond to these data demands. The urgency of transforming statistical systems has been emphasized by the impact of COVID-19 on statistical systems,” she said.

On her part, ECA Executive Secretary, Vera Songwe, agreed with Ms. Zewde on the need to modernize Africa’s statistical systems.

“A lot more can be done with technology through our national statistical offices to improve on data collection and quality. If we cannot measure, we cannot manage, we cannot plan and we cannot design policy. At a time when resources are scarce data is important to design and implement the right polices,” said Ms. Songwe.

Digitalizing Africa’s national statistical systems, she said, is crucial if continent is to move forward from the multifaceted impacts of COVID-19.

Ms. Songwe said the ECA and other UN agencies will during this Decade of Action continue to work with member States to ensure quality statistics and data they both agree on are produced through common data bases and platforms.

She also highlighted the importance of censuses in providing vital information, adding the ECA will continue to work with member States on rebasing the GDPs of the continent to understand and help reform the system of national accounts.

Stefan Schweinfest, Director UN Statistics Division, said COVID-19 is an opportunity for Africa to modernize its national statistical systems and start using new alternative data sources. Use of new data sources and new technologies can make statistical operations more cost effective and provide timelier, more frequent outputs, he said.

Chair of the Bureau of the StatCom Africa, Ms. Albina Chuwa, who is also the Director General of Tanzania’s National Bureau for Statistics, emphasized the need for the production of accurate data and effective use of statistics in evidence-based policymaking.

“We need numbers to measure our developmental processes. To see the inclusive growth we are talking about in Agenda 2030 for sustainable development and the Africa we want in Agenda 2063, then it’s crucial that we produce the numbers to inform our policymaking and decisions,” she said.

The theme of the StatCom7 is: “Developing regional solutions to enhance the resilience of African national statistical systems to meet the need for data during the Decade of Action in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic”.

In the context of Agenda 2030 and the Agenda 2063, the meeting will provide an opportunity for the African Statistical System to take stock of ongoing global initiatives and seek ways to mainstream ownership of new and/or updated methodologies aiming at enhancing Member States’ statistical capacities.

Participants include representatives from national, sub-regional, regional and international organizations; NGOs; academia and research institutions; and the private sector.