Yaoundé, 29 April 2013 (ECA) — The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) jointly with the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the International Labor Organizations (ILO) is organizing a technical meeting on informal sector statistics from 29 April to 3 May 2013 in Yaoundé, Cameroon. The purpose of the meeting is to review and exchange experience and practice within and outside of the region and to identify the most appropriate methods and procedures for the countries to apply in their work plans on this continent.
Informal sector plays a very important role in Africa as one of the major sources of employment and thus the sources of income; as well as one of the big producers of goods and services and thus contributors to the GDP of the economy. The related statistics are useful and essential for a range of policies analysis and formulation such as poverty reduction, labor force and employment, women’s contribution to the economy, and economic and social development. According to ILO, during the period of 2000-2007, in Africa, the working population grew by 96 million people while the number of created jobs grew by only 63 million; there was a gap of 36 million people with no formal jobs who might have to survive through various informal jobs. The African Economic Outlook 2012 estimated that currently Africa hosts the youngest population aged of 15-24 years old around 200 million and this population is expected to double by 2045. In general, it will be difficult for the formal sector to absorb all the new job seekers in the near future and the informal sector will still remain as a key player of the labor market. In terms of the regional integration in Africa, while official statistics indicate that the intra-African trade represents only 12.8% of the total foreign trade in 2011, some ad-hoc case studies have found that the informal cross-border trade can represent from 15% of the total foreign trade in Nigeria to more than 200% in countries such as Central African Republic and Equatorial Guinea. Given its informality, to measure properly the size and contribution of informal sector and informal employment has been challenging for many African countries. The recent survey administrated by ECA shows that the challenges include also issues related to methods to be used for data collection, the frequency of data collection in a cost-effective way, and methods that are most appropriate for incorporating informal sector into GDP and national accounts.
The meeting will invite 40 experts in national accounts and in survey design from 20 countries that have actively participated and responded to the abovementioned survey on informal sector, plus experts from the related international and regional organizations, and some of the authors of the recent manual on the international recommended statistical methods in this area, Measuring Informality: A Statistical Manual on the Informal Sector and Informal Employment. It is expected that by the end of the meeting the Manual will be reviewed and discussed with a good understanding among the participants; the summary report of the methodologies for informal sector statistics used by African countries will be finalized; methodologies of data collection and compilation for informal sector that are appropriate for African countries will be identified so that they can be used for countries to formulate the work plans for their home countries. The results of this meeting will be reported to the fourth session of the Statistical Commission for Africa (StatCom-Africa IV) in January 2014.