Measuring African Development: Past and Present – Special Issue

In 2013 the chief economist for the World Bank’s Africa region, Shanta Devarajan, delivered a devastating assessment of the capacity of African states to measure development and declared  “Africa’s Statistical Tragedy”. Is there a “statistical tragedy” unfolding in Africa now?If so then examining the roots of the problem of provision of statistics in poor economies is certainly of great importance. This Special Issue on measuring African development in the past and in the present draws on the historical experience of colonial French West Africa, Ghana, Sudan, Mauritania and Tanzania and the more contemporary experiences of Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The authors each reflect on the changing ways statistics represent African economies and how they are used to govern them.

It is published by the Canadian Journal of Development Studies and for a limited time all the papers are publicly available through this link.

I have written an introduction to the special issue, which is available here.  I am very pleased with the range of contributions, see the table of content here – the authors and paper titles are listed below.

Continue reading

Posted in Africa's Statistical Renaissance, Africa's Statistical Tragedy, African Economic History, Canadian Journal of Development Studies, Ethiopia, Ghana, History, Mauritania, Poor Numbers, Population, Sudan | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A history of economic growth in Africa: why measurement matters

The GDP re-basing in Nigeria again brought measurement to the center of debates on African economic development, just like it happened when Ghana re-based their GDP in 2010.

There has been more commentary in mainstream media this time around – and also a fair bit of confusion. Like in Joshua Keating the Slate Magazine stating that:

Nigeria hadn’t calculated its GDP since 1990

Not quite. The real issue is rather that we have different calculations now. Izabella Kaminska in the Financial Times get closer, when she says that:

To come up with a growth rate, statisticians compare one snapshot of the economy with another. They do this by looking at what’s spent in the economy in two different periods.

Closer. As I show in a previous post here, the issue is that we got two different pictures for the same year of the Nigerian economy. That is completely normal by the way – and you could generate many more given available data, different definitions, weights and so forth.

This is all carefully explained in Poor Numbers, and for those who want detail they should really consider consulting my second book Economic Growth and Measurement Reconsidered in Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia, 1965-1995

The key question is not only how the ‘new’ number affects rankings and which is the biggest economy and so fort. For scholars the key questions would be how these changes of measurement make us rethink how we evaluate growth performances.

I have written a post about this for the Royal Statistical Society – read all about it here.

Posted in Africa Rising, Economic Growth, Economic Growth and Measurement Reconsidered, GDP Revision, Ghana, History, National Accounts, Nigeria, Poor Numbers | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

What does Nigeria’s new GDP number actually mean?

Read my write up for African Arguments here.

Posted in Economic Growth, GDP Revision, Nigeria, Poor Numbers | Tagged | Leave a comment

Nigeria publishes new GDP numbers = Nigeria biggest economy in Africa

So it is official. The new GDP number for Nigeria was released today. It is 80.3 trillion naira for 2013. That is according to NBS this afternoon. The old GDP number was 42.4 trillion naira. The increase is bigger than per-announced and Nigeria overtakes South Africa.

Old GDP per capita for Nigeria (in current USD) = $1,437

New GDP per capita for Nigeria (in current USD) = $2,258

What is GDP in Nigeria according to the World Bank today? The World Bank Development Indicators so far only has data for 2012, and they still report 41.2 trillion Naira. That is a bit higher than the old number NBS reported for 2012 (40.5), but far lower than the new number for 2012 (71.2).

It will probably take a while before all organizations get the same numbers for Nigeria. In the case of Ghana they announced their new GDP in November 2010, but it was not until April 2011 that World Bank accepted the new income status, and the database was only updated in late 2012.

Here’s a snapshot of the new and old economy of Nigeria (this is the official NBS presentation).

Does it seem to you that the Nigerian economy suddenly is growing faster? It is. On the old series growth was 10, 8 and 4 percent in 2011, 2012 and 2013 respectively. On the new series we have 17, 13 and 12 percent growth for the same years.

Also note that Nigeria used to be almost 1/3 agriculture, almost half industry, and just about a quarter services. On the new benchmark year for 2010, we have a neat 50-25-25 division. Those who thought that Nigeria was a petroleum economy will be surprised, because on the new numbers, 50 percent of Nigerian GDP comes from services.

Want to know more?  Frequently Asked Questions about the Nigeria Rebasing from the NBS right here. 

And what about GDP in other countries – the first analysis of base years in African development statistic was published last year in Poor Numbers.

In a piece for African Affairs, African Arguments and the Guardian I guesstimated that the total increase in Nigeria would mean that at the time there were about 40 Malawi’s unaccounted for inside the Nigerian economy. It turns out there were 58.

Posted in GDP Revision, National Accounts, Nigeria | 3 Comments

Two nice tweets on Nigerian GDP rebasing

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Nigeria Rebases GDP

The announcement is expected to be made on Sunday. It has been expected any day now for almost three years, so it is about time. As I documented in Poor Numbers: How We Are Misled by African Development Statistics and What to Do about It  Ghana did their rebasing from a 1993 base year to a 2006 base year in 2010. Nigeria is changing from a 1990 base to a 2010 base year in 2014. In the case of Ghana, GDP doubled. What should we expect from Nigeria? All the eyes are on the South African GDP number now – will Nigeria go in under or over? Watch this space.

I have written with Magnus Ebo Duncan, the former head of Macroeconomic statistics at Ghana Statistical Services, about the Ghana rebasing here, and the expected Nigeria rebasing here.

I think Yemi Kale does a nice job in answering most of the pertinent questions here. Yemi Kale also visited me in Vancouver to attend the conference at SFU in April 2013, and you can find the paper on the revision here.

Posted in GDP Revision, Ghana, Nigeria, Poor Numbers, South Africa | Tagged | Leave a comment

Poor Numbers @ Ottawa University

I am invited to give a talk based on Poor Numbers: How We Are Misled by African Development Statistics and What to Do about It (Cornell Studies in Political Economy)
at Ottawa at the Center for International Policy Studies. I might also draw upon Economic Growth and Measurement Reconsidered in Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia, 1965-1995 which is being published by Oxford University Press this month.

Event Date: April 9, 2014 – 12:00 pm
Location: Social Sciences Building, 120, University Street, room 4004

Full description here.

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Reflecting back, looking forwards: Interview with Democracy in Africa

Democracy in Africa asked me about developments in my field in the past year, and what I thought are the main challenges and exciting opportunities ahead. Read the interview here.

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The African Statistics Debate

As I posted a few weeks ago, I did attend the meetings at the Symposium for Statistical Development in Africa in Botswana last week. Magnus Taylor at African Arguments sums it up nicely. There were some productive exchanges, and then there some that were not so productive…

According to the official press release from UNECA:

“Busani Ngcaweni a discussant and Deputy-Director General in the South African Presidency, likened the book to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness an Salmon Rashdie’s Satanic Verses.”

That is quite prestigious company, but I was a bit unsure whether Busani had read the book. You can judge for yourself. Statistics South Africa has put up some edited bits of the exchange, and Busani speaks here.

I tried to look for my response to Busani’s claims, but they are edited out.  In any case, the moderator Patrick Molutsi did a very nice job and you can browse his response and the comments by others.

Posted in Africa's Statistical Renaissance, Africa's Statistical Tragedy, African Development Bank, Poor Numbers | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off

The History of Poverty in Africa

At the Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University, Rhiannon Stephens is organizing what promises to be an excellent conference on the History of Poverty in Africa. Jane Guyer is giving a keynote on Thursday March 6, and then there is a full day on Friday with four panels and 13 papers ranging on dimensions of poverty from the pre-colonial period until current day. The programme looks very promising.



Posted in History, Poverty | Tagged , , | 1 Comment