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Poor data dents Africa’s sustainable development goals implementation

2 March, 2021
Poor data dents Africa’s sustainable development goals implementation

Brazzaville, Congo, March 2, 2021 (ECA) - Good quality data and statistics are important for informing development decisions and Africa should not be found wanting as it seeks to meet the global 2030 Agenda for sustainable development and Africa’s Agenda 2063, experts say.

“The most important thing for data collection is the political will,” Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, and Head of United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, told a panel discussion held virtually at the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development on Tuesday.

If at the highest level of policy there is the will to invest in data collection and analysis, to invest in capacity development, then we can do better, Ms. Mizutori observed.

Disaster risk reduction is such an important theme for the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063 because disasters undermine sustainable development, she said.


Minding the gap

Ms. Mizutori said there is less data coming through from member States in terms of economic loss and disruption of services.

“Another challenge we see is that there is not enough disaggregated data coming in that is data disaggregated by income, sex, age by disability and geographic location,” she said.

“Disaggregated data are important because without them we cannot understand where the vulnerabilities are and if we cannot deal with the vulnerabilities we cannot have good policies for good disaster reduction.”

There is increased need for government to use research evidence in making development decisions, which is impossible without timely, accurate and disaggregated data on development metrics, the panel heard.


Breaking data silos

As Africa moves to fulfil key SDGs in poverty reduction, eliminating hunger and accessing water, education, health and housing to its citizens, it needs statistics for an accurate picture of progress made on development activities.

“We need to break down the silos because many times the data are there but are scattered and you need to really bring them together,” Mizutori emphasized, calling for increased collaboration between national statistical offices, academic centres, civil society, continental and regional climate centres.

Oliver Chinganya, Director of the ECA’s African Center for Statistics, gave a brief report on progress made so far. He said Africa had recorded some progress on 15 of the 17 sustainable development goals but was off track to meet all of them by 2030.

He said the current rate of progress was insufficient to achieve the global goals by 2030.

“Africa needs to accelerate on these goals. When you look at goal 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions, Africa has regressed. This is drawn from the increased number of victims of human trafficking, bribery and corruption,” said Mr. Chinganya.

The least progress was on Goal 1 - No poverty; Goal 12 - Responsible consumption and production; Goal 9 - Industry, innovation and infrastructure; and Goal 7 - Affordable and clean energy.

“Timely and disaggregated data is therefore critical, especially for most vulnerable groups to inform COVID-19 responses, SDGs and Agenda 2063. We therefore implore the national statistical systems to step-up in the provision of the needed data,” noted the ECA Director.

Calling for increased investment in data infrastructure, COMESA Assistant Secretary General (Programmes) Kipyego Cheluget, said COMESA was establishing a Digital Free Trade Area (DFTA) for the 21 member States, which will lead to a rich harvest of data, critical to the digitization process. The DFTA will facilitate real time trade statistics and mirror data will now be comparable among countries.

He said digital infrastructure introduces efficiencies in the production, compilation and dissemination of statistics and yields new sources of data.

“Governments need to invest in digital infrastructure,” Cheluget urged, adding “data depositories need to be created in sectors that have rich administrative datasets.”

Contributing to the discussion, Malawi Vice President, Saulos Klaus Chilima, said Malawi’s investment in data collection and statistical systems has paid handsomely in enabling the country to hold regular demographic surveys and tracking progress on its SDGs goals.

In Zambia the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on global economies, led to the Southern African nation entering a recession with real GDP contracting by 2.6% at the end of 2020. The disruptions in employment and other socio-economic effects made Zambia seek to understand the extent of these effects through collection of appropriate data and statistical information to better respond, Zambia’s Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Planning, Trevor Kaunda, said.

This has given rise to concerted efforts between the Government and its development partners to support the undertaking of COVID-19 related surveys with a key objective to identify and measure their impact on households and the industry, Kaunda noted.



Despite having sound statistical institutions, African countries face challenges in ensuring robust data collection and analysis. There are capacity constraints in terms of experienced staff and inadequately funded and resourced statistical institutions. There was need to

allocate domestic funding towards the gathering and maintenance of data and statistics as well as investing in new technologies to ensure routine data collection and use of quality data.


Issued by:

Communications Section

Economic Commission for Africa

PO Box 3001

Addis Ababa


Tel: +251 11 551 5826