2 October 2017

Africa Can't Afford a Business-As-Usual Approach to Statistics Says ECA's Biha

Addis Ababa — The 6th Statistical Data and Metadata eXchange (SDMX) conference opened in Addis Ababa Monday with Deputy Executive Secretary, Giovanie Biha, of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) stressing that African countries can no longer afford to continue traditional ways of processing and disseminating statistics.

In opening remarks to the conference bringing together over 300 experts from National Statistical Offices, Central Banks, other government institutions, international agencies, and the private sector from all parts of the world, Ms. Biha said the continent would fail if it continued to process and disseminate statistics in the old way.

"It is not sustainable to continue business as usual. Innovation like SDMX has to be embraced to save resources, increase efficiency, minimize response burden on countries, as well as to improve quality," she said.

SDMX is an international initiative that aims to standardize and modernize mechanisms and processes for the exchange of statistical data and metadata among international organisations and their member countries. It is an ISO standard for data and metadata dissemination and has become a basis to design statistical processes.

Ms. Biha said in the era of sustainable development goals (SDGs), statistical data and metadata were now more important than ever.

However, with so many data producers and consumers in the government, private sector, and civil society, maintaining consistency and coherence of the data was a real challenge, she noted.

"This is where SDMX can make a real difference by bringing a common understanding of the data and providing a way to supply robust metadata that can explain discrepancies. This will ensure use of credible data that is accepted by all users at all levels," the Deputy Executive Secretary said.

She said the theme of the conference; "Statistical Data and Metadata eXchange for the Data Revolution" was timely as Africa accelerates its economic transformation agenda.

"It is also now a well-known fact that data are essential for implementing any set of development goals. Everybody also accepts that we need data to report on progress using agreed monitoring indicators," she stressed.

Ms. Biha underscored that the sustainable development agenda calls for a data revolution to improve quality and timeliness of data to support development agendas at all levels.

"However, quality data has remained an issue and cannot be compromised and neither is it a luxury for African governments; it is an essential component for development. Our countries need to develop a quality assurance framework to manage the statistical system, statistical processes and outputs. This requires rigorous statistical data management as well as robust systems to disseminate data in a well-coordinated and efficient manner," she added.

Ms. Biha said the ECA, through its African Centre for Statistics, has close working relationships with the official statistics agencies, statistical training centres and national statistics associations in 54 countries of the continent and will seek to support them to embrace innovative methods and tools in statistical data production, as well as adopting SDMX as a primary tool for data exchange.

"We will also seek to identify countries in Africa as well as the rest of the world which are strong with respect to data access and dissemination so that we can encourage co-operation across countries," she said, adding the ECA is committed to closely work with sponsor organizations to assist African countries improve their statistical systems so they can produce data that is fit for purpose.

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