The data revolution must be harnessed to achieve SDGs in North Africa, says ECA’s Hachem Naas

Tunis, 2 November 2018 (ECA) - “Data revolution is not a myth. It is real and must be harnessed to support our structural transformation initiatives in North Africa,” said Lilia Hachem Naas, ECA Director for North Africa.

After four days of intense debates and discussions on the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), migration, blue economy, and the role of good quality data in achieving the SDGs and Agenda 2063, the ECA official stated “it delights me to note that our member states understand and agree to improve and use data as a vital tool for sustainable growth.”

She was speaking at the end of the 33rd meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts for North Africa (ICE2018) in Tunis, where representations from Algeria, Egypt, Mauritania, Morocco, Sudan, and Tunisia brainstormed on “Data Revolution in North Africa: Using Data in Support of Structural Transformation.”

At the end of their deliberations, the experts recommended that ECA should support North African countries to modernize their legal and regulatory frameworks as well as inter-institutional relations to enable national statistical systems to respond to the new demands and opportunities offered by the data revolution.

They urged the Commission to provide technical assistance to improve their statistical systems, including human skills and digital technologies amongst others. The member states requested ECA assistance in the AfCFTA ratification process, in a bid to achieve subregional integration. ECA was also requested to produce a North Africa regional profile on the SDGs.

In line with the blue economy, it was recommended that countries strengthen data collection and analysis to improve the quality of all components of the blue economy.

These recommendations will be channeled to the Conference of Ministers for consideration.

The week-long event also featured the launch of the first-ever report on the SDGs implementation in the Maghreb and a presentation on ECA’s revised strategic framework, which gives member states a good picture of where the Commission is headed.

The official opening of ICE2018 was graced by ECA Executive Secretary, Vera Songwe - via a video message - Tunisian Minister of Development, Investment and International Cooperation, the Secretary-General of the Arab Maghreb Union, the President of the Tunisian Union of Industry, Trade and Handicraft, and senior officials from the FAO, UNDP, AfDB and diplomatic missions in Tunisia.