Situational Analysis of the Reliability of Economic Statistics in Africa: Special Focus on GDP Measurement

That is the title of a recently released report from the African Development Bank.

As you might guess the report has been motivated by the data quality concerns expressed in Poor Numbers but the preface oddly spends time not discussing data quality or the book, thumb but is rather focused on dismissing the PR problem they perceive arising from headlines in newspapers and media such as the Guardian and Jeune Afrique.

As in the recent IMF report, advice the study replicates what I did for Poor Numbers – it finds the same disturbing gaps in knowledge and meager data basis for estimating GDP in the region as I found, but incredibly concludes that there is nothing to worry about.

During 2012, concerns were raised in the international press about the quality of statistics in Africa and particularly about GDP estimates. The reliability of economic statistics is a crucial concern now that African development is gathering pace and foreign investors need reassurance that they can rely on African statistics. This report will go a long way to reassure them. Statisticians in Africa face many challenges, as do their
counterparts worldwide, but the national accounts data in the region are generally timely and of equal quality to data in other
developing regions.

The data in the report does not support this conclusion, though I completely understand why they would write this. The AfDB is fundamentally concerned that any doubts about the accuracy of the recent high growth data may in any way distract the attention of foreign investors. Thus this report is commissioned to  reassure them.  I think it signals short term thinking and damage control. Instead of seizing the moment to invest in data, and take data for development seriously, the preface (though not the content) of this report  shows  that politics of numbers is at the center, while measurement is yet again in the backseat.

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2 Responses to Situational Analysis of the Reliability of Economic Statistics in Africa: Special Focus on GDP Measurement

  1. Dwayne says:

    I agree that it is PR and damage control but I think the bank really will try to get governments to improve on things.

  2. Morten Jerven says:

    Maybe. Any case there is currently a curiously long distance between the World Bank (Africa’s Statistical Tragedy) and the African Development Bank on this issue.

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