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Camilla Rocco — Director of Research,  Mo Ibrahim Foundation, making a statement
Camilla Rocco — Director of Research, Mo Ibrahim Foundation, making a statement

African governments must invest in data — Mo Ibrahim

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation has called on African governments to invest in data to help reap the benefits for the economic development of their various countries.

It said without sound data, it would be difficult for governments to have a clear direction towards steering progress and development on the continent.

Data, it said, is raw information, including basic numbers or text.

In the digital realm, it may include different files, such as images, graphics or videos.

It covers all information gathered for analysis or reference.

The Foundation says research has shown that a dollar invested in data had a $32 return in economic benefits and explains that public sector data is information generated and collected by public sector bodies and organisations, such as government departments, local authorities, police forces, health services and schools.

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African governance

This was made known in Accra last Monday when the Foundation launched its 2023 Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) report titled ‘The Power of Data for Governance: Closing data gaps to accelerate Africa’s transformation’.

Data plays a critical role in informing strategy and policymaking. Data enables baselines, benchmarks and goals to be set, allowing governments to monitor and evaluate policies and commitments. Data allows governments to improve public service design, delivery and effectiveness.

 Data is essential to ensure that government policies take into account the most vulnerable groups and individuals, leaving no one behind.

 The report highlights the strong correlation between high-quality data and effective governance.

According to the report, sound data was at the heart of Africa’s governance and development agenda, and it therefore underscores its role in driving progress, assessing government performance, setting policy priorities and ensuring trust in governments. 

Highlights of the report

Giving highlights of the report, a researcher at the Foundation, Hoodo Richter, said drawing from the 2022 IIAG dataset, the report reveals a strong positive correlation between access to high-quality statistics and effective governance across African countries from 2012 to 2021.

She said in 14 African countries, the latest population census was conducted before 2010 while only three African countries had a death registration system that registered at least 90 per cent of deaths that occurred.

Also, she said, although the Sustainable Development Goal One (SDG1) calls for the eradication of extreme poverty by 2030, just five African countries have data for the 2019-2022 period on the proportion of the population living below the international poverty line. 

Data gaps globally

The Director of Research, Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Camilla Rocca, in a submission said Africa remained the continent most impacted by data gaps globally, with the region possessing the lowest availability of civil registration and vital statistics.

She said when it came to the basic building blocks of statistics that were key to defining public policies, such as population censuses and birth and death registration, many African countries were missing crucial data.

She added that even in areas where strides had been made, critical governance data gaps persisted on issues, including health structures, the informal economy, the environment, violence against women, child labour and illicit financial flows.

The Ibrahim Index of Africa Governance (IIAG) Lead, Diego Fernandez Fernandez, said the underfunding of data remained a serious challenge globally, with statistics receiving just 0.34 per cent of total Official Development Assistance (ODA), adding that in Africa, ODA received for data and statistics had nearly halved between 2018 and 2021.

Critical strategies

He said in addition to investing in data, the report outlined critical strategies to enhance data impact and accelerate development progress on the continent.

These, he said, included the importance of ensuring the independence of national statistical offices, harnessing alternative data sources such as citizen-generated data and private company data, and leveraging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning.

The Chief Executive Office of Afrobarometer, which co-hosted the launch of the report, Joseph Asunka, in his reaction after the launch said the report had proved the importance of data to the development of any country.

He said the time had come for the citizenry to demand data on policies and projects initiated by their governments.

Citing the Free Senior High School programme being implemented in the country, he said since the implementation of the policy in September 2017, no research had been conducted to know the number of children it had benefited and the gender disaggregated data of the beneficiaries, among others, to plan for the future.

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