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.

Morten Jerven, Measuring African development: past and present. Introduction to the Special Issue.

Gerardo Serra, An uneven statistical topography: the political economy of household budget surveys in late colonial Ghana, 1951–1957.

Vincent Bonnecase, Des revenus nationaux pour l’Afrique? La mesure du développement en Afrique occidentale française dans les années 1950.

Alden Young, Measuring the Sudanese economy: a focus on national growth rates and regional inequality, 1959–1964.

Felicitas Becker, The bureaucratic performance of development in colonial and post-colonial Tanzania.

Boris Samuel, Economic calculations, instability and (in)formalisation of the state in Mauritania, 2003–2011.

Wim Marivoet & Tom De Herdt, Reliable, challenging or misleading? A qualitative account of the most recent national surveys and country statistics in the DRC.

Dwayne Woods, The use, abuse and omertà on the “noise” in the data: African democratisation, development and growth.

Roy Carr-Hill, Measuring development progress in Africa: the denominator problem.

Katharina Welle, Monitoring performance or performing monitoring? Exploring the power and political dynamics underlying monitoring the MDG for rural water in Ethiopia.

Christopher Cramer, Deborah Johnston, Bernd Mueller, Carlos Oya & John Sender, How to do (and how not to do) fieldwork on Fair Trade and rural poverty.

Johannes Hoogeveen, Kevin Croke, Andrew Dabalen, Gabriel Demombynes & Marcelo Giugale, Collecting high frequency panel data in Africa using mobile phone interviews.

Jane I. Guyer, Book Review Poor numbers. How we are misled by African development statistics and what to do about it.

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