Data producers and users from Sub-Saharan Africa meet at the First International Conference on the Use of Tanzania National Panel Survey and LSMS Data for Research, Policy, and Development
Earlier this month, researchers, policymakers, and development practitioners gathered in Dar es Salaam to attend the first of a series of conferences to discuss the use of household panel data produced with support from the Living Standards Measurement Study–Integrated Surveys on Agriculture (LSMS-ISA) program.
The event—co-sponsored by the Tanzania National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and LSMS of the World Bank’s Development Data Group—brought together more than 100 people, with a large representation of researchers from Sub-Saharan Africa.
The opening session featured the Hon. Dr. Philip Mpango (Minister for Finance and Planning, United Republic of Tanzania), Dr. Albina Chuwa (Director General, Tanzania National Bureau of Statistics), Mr. Roeland Van De Geer (European Union Ambassador to the United Republic of Tanzania and the East African Community), Ms. Bella Bird (Country Director Tanzania, World Bank), Ms. Mayasa Mwinyi (Government Statistician, Office of the Chief Government Statistician–Zanzibar), and Dr. Gero Carletto (Manager, LSMS program, World Bank)—as well as a keynote speech by Dr. Blandina Kilama (Senior Researcher, Policy Research for Development–REPOA).
In his remarks, Mr. Van De Geer said, “Democratic societies do not function properly without a solid basis of reliable and objective statistics; decision makers in government and development partners need objective information to monitor and assess progress in society.”
The Hon. Dr. Philip Mpango reiterated the importance of high-quality data—such as the Tanzania NPS—that can easily be used by policymakers. He also highlighted the need to increase the use of such data among African stakeholders, and to involve young African scholars in both data production and analysis.
Ms. Bird also stressed the importance of good data at the national level and beyond. “Data are fundamental for the economic and social development of any country,” she said. “As the world moves toward attainment of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we recognize that monitoring country progress and development effectiveness will demand a concerted effort to improve the data—in terms of coverage, frequency, and quality—to measure progress and impact.”
She then brought the discussion home, to Tanzania. “It is only fitting that this conference should take place in Tanzania, which is where the LSMS-ISA program first started in 2008,” she said. “Dr. Chuwa has been a relentless supporter of the effort, in the country, in Africa more broadly, as well as in global fora. The success of the program… is a success that is shared by all who have put [their] skills, drive, time, and effort to make it what it is today.”
The conference featured 6 sessions with 18 presented papers on poverty dynamics, income, and welfare; gender; agriculture and welfare; methods and tool development; nutrition and food security; and environment and climate change. Half of the papers were authored by researchers from Tanzania and other Sub-Saharan African countries. These conference papers are a small, yet indicative, sample of the more than 500 papers produced in the past few years using LSMS-ISA data.
The presentations highlighted the great strength of datasets like the NPS and other LSMS-ISA surveys, which contribute to a better understanding of transformational processes (via panel data), and allow for an examination of behavior and linkages (via multi-topic, multi-purpose data) as well as a richer understanding of poverty (via multi-level data: national, subnational, community, household, individual, plot).
A final panel discussion featuring representatives from academia, capacity-building institutions, and international organizations focused on options for improving the use and usability of NPS and LSMS data. Several panelists pointed out that the lack of experience of senior lecturers at Sub-Saharan African universities in using complex datasets (such as those produced by the LSMS) hinders the ability of their students to acquire valuable—and highly valued—professional skills. Suggestions included pursuing stronger partnerships with regional training institutions and having organizations such as the World Bank support analytical training for mid- and high-level academics in the use of microdata for policy analysis.
More than 20 panel datasets from the 8 LSMS-ISA partner countries (Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Uganda) are available on the LSMS website, along with results from several methodological studies and methodological guidelines on best practices and standards.