The World Bank has decried the quality and relevance of data from Nigeria and other African countries, which it described as largely obsolete.
The bank’s Director, Department of Economic Policy and Poverty Reduction Programmes, Africa, Mr. Marcelo Giugale, stated this in a report at the weekend.
He expressed concern that a lot of money had been invested in improving statistics in a lot of countries in the continent, explaining that most of that money came as donations from well-meaning rich countries.
He said a report tagged: ‘Partnership in Statistics for Development in the 21st Century,’ had revealed that between 2009 and 2011, Africa received $700 million to build up its capacity to collect data. He stressed that communication technology is what would revolutionise African statistics.
Giugale added: “First, we don’t really know how big (or small) many African economies are. In about half of them, the system of “national accounts” dates back to the 1960s (1968, to be precise); in the other half, it is from 1993. This means that measuring things like how much is produced, consumed or invested is done with methods from the times when computers were rare, the Internet did not exist and nobody spoke about “globalisation. That is, the methodology ignores the fact that some industries have disappeared and new ones were born.
“How badly does this skew the data? Well, to give you an idea, when Ghana used a newer methodology to update its accounts in 2010, it found out that its economy was about 60 per cent bigger than it had previously thought – and the country instantly became “middle-income” in the global ranking.
“Second, the latest poverty counts for Africa are, on average, five years old. So we only have guesstimates of how the global financial, food and fuel crises have impacted the distribution of income, wealth and opportunities in the region. This is because, to count the poor, you need “household surveys” – those face-to-face, home visits where people are asked how much they earn, own, know and so on. In fifteen African countries, this has been done only once since 2000.”
The World Bank official pointed out that the advent of technology now allows for the surveys to be done not only more frequently, but continuously
“Industrial surveys are even more infrequent than household surveys – only a handful of African countries have done at least one in the last ten years. This is a pity! Knowing what your producers are doing — and what keeps them from producing more – is critical if you want to design policies that increase employment, productivity and economic growth.
“To be sure, academics, non-governmental organisations, development banks and business organisations carry out sporadic surveys of enterprises for one purpose or another – from understanding how informal jobs are created to selling logistical services. But regular, comprehensive, nation-wide data is, at best, rare,” he stated.