With 2023 being the halfway point to meeting the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the first 10-year milestone of the African Union’s (AU) Agenda 2063, there is more data missing to assess progress in Africa than in any other world region.
Civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) are the building blocks that provide governments with critical information to develop policies and provide services, however, Africa has the highest proportion (60%) of countries globally that have postponed censuses scheduled for 2020 or 2021.
The 2022 Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) shows key data gaps that impact the availability and accuracy of information in key governance dimensions:
- Besides effective policymaking, the lack of up-to-date and relevant data on health capacities, rural sector and climate change resilience hinders Africa’s responses to the health and climate crises.
Only 12 African countries have at least one year's worth of data for hospital bed density (per 1,000 people) over the 2022 IIAG time series (2012-2021)
- Variables in the IIAG Education sub-category do not cover a sufficient number of African countries across the 2022 IIAG time series (2012-2021) – leading to estimations and statistical exceptions.
- Nine African countries do not have data for the IIAG Rural Economy sub-category.
Rural Economy: a concerning lack of data sources
Despite its vital importance for agriculture, food security and climate change adaptation, there is currently poor data availability on rural sector in Africa.
One dataset, the Rural Sector Performance Assessment (RSPA), produced by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), provides data for the IIAG’s Rural Economy sub-category. However, as of now, there are only two data years available from source for this dataset (2018 and 2021), making long-term trend analysis challenging. Also, in terms of country coverage, nine African countries are not part of this dataset: Algeria, Botswana, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Libya, Mauritius, Namibia, Seychelles and South Africa.
The investment case for data
Data is missing at a moment in which the demand for data is highest – due to the need to track progress in the UN’s SDGs and the AU’s Agenda 2063. However, statistics are perennially underfunded, currently attracting a mere 0.34% of total Official Development Assistance (ODA). As a result, the funding gap for properly monitoring the SDG indicators stands at approximately $200 million per year.
What is interesting though is that data offers a hugely untapped potential for governments and donors – as evidenced by an investment case commissioned by the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data whereby investments in strengthening data systems provide a return of $32 of economic benefits per $1 invested.
2023 IIAG interim report
2023 is a crucial year to unleash the data dividend to meet the development and climate goals, both for Africa and the rest of the world. Without concerted efforts to accelerate data investments, the comprehensive review of the state of the SDGs at the 2023 SDG Summit (18-19 September 2023, New York), and the first Global Stocktake to measure progress in the implementation of the Paris Agreement at COP28 (30 November-12 December 2023, Dubai) will be a failure.
In the context of the upcoming African Climate Action Summit (4-6 September, Nairobi) and G20 Leaders’ Summit (9-10 September 2023, New Delhi), developing countries should also exert their influence to put data and statistical systems at the core of any efforts towards the development and climate agendas.
Without sound data, governments drive blind and there can be no real progress towards development.
The next IIAG interim report, to be published in the second half of 2023, will contribute to these global efforts via providing an assessment of needs and priorities to be able to harness the power of data to achieve Africa’s development goals. It will provide a comprehensive mapping of long-standing data gaps measuring African governance performance, highlighting challenges and proposing a clear roadmap for action for Africa’s governments, stakeholders and external partners.