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Submitted by Neil Fantom on
Thanks for bringing much needed attention to issue of statistical capacity in Africa and to the need for a sustained and systematic approach to addressing the problem. Your suggestions - that available data be open and accessible, that statistical development be organized around a country's own plans (the NSDS), and that statistical activities sponsored by donors support improvements in capacity rather than -- in some cases -- reducing capacity, are all important. But your post overlooks much of the work that's been achieved by African countries in the past few years. For instance, while survey data in some countries may still not be easily accessible, many countries are starting to make real progress on that. Here's one, Tanzania: http://www.nbs.go.tz/tnada/index.php/catalog/. That's an outcome of the efforts of countries and development partners working together through the PARIS21 partnership (http://www.paris21.org) -- in this case, the Accelerated Data Program. And of course it's because of the efforts of countries and partners working together through PARIS21 that most countries now do have NSDSs from which they can build. In my view what's needed now is an effort to sustain investment in the systems that form the basis for sound statistics, and which developed countries take for granted. For instance, very few countries in Africa have vital registration systems that can be used to monitor demographic events and change -- cause of death is particularly difficult of course. And all too few countries have household survey programs that are financed on a regular basis. It's the lack of these basic systems that can cause donors and development partners to behave as they do, and which creates all sorts of perverse institutional incentives that tend to work against the development of sustainable capacity. After this I'm sure you will be fully behind the call for a renewed action plan to address these and other statistical capacity issues at the upcoming High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan in November. So that what we have is not the tragedy of African statistics, but the inevitable birth pains!