Africa: Poor Data Infrastructure Derails Africa's Quest to Achieve SDGs

23 October 2019

Inadequate data collection infrastructure in Africa is hindering countries from reviewing progress on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), thus frustrating the process of pursuing the goals.

Statistics from the SDG Centre for Africa show that only 40 per cent of the 232 indicators of the 17 SDGs have data across the continent despite the fact that it has been four years since the goals were adopted.

This, according to officials, is partly blamed on inadequate infrastructure for data collection which incapacitates voluntary national reporting schemes for SDGs among the countries.

Adopted in 2015, the 17 SDGs aim to economically develop the world in a way that eliminates poverty, respects planetary boundaries and leaves no one behind.

The international community agreed that every country is responsible for achieving these goals, and that all members of society - governments, business, and civil society - need to participate.

Speaking Monday during a continental workshop on Voluntary National Reviews and Governance of SDGs, Dr Belay Begashaw, the Director-General of the SDG Centre for Africa, said that voluntary national reporting schemes concerning SDGs are necessary but not sufficient and are analytically "selective, incomprehensive, irregular and don't always provide comparative data."

Begashaw said that, before 2019, only 19 out of the 54 African countries had undertaken Voluntary National Reviews and in 2019 there have been only 17 reviews.

This small achievement is still subject to constraints as countries are said to be analysing SDGs by using pre-SDG data (for example using the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) era indicators), according to Dr Enock Twinoburyo, a Senior Economist at the SDGs Center for Africa.

Twinoburyo added that only 22 per cent of African nations have independent statistics institutions, which is also a constraint for collecting data relating to the SDGs.

Yusuf Murangwa, the Director-General of National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR), acknowledged that the lack of infrastructure for collecting statistics for measuring the SDGs is still a big challenge for some African countries.

"Starting July this year, we will put up a seven-year strategy to develop statistics in line with the National Strategy for Transformation and the SDGs. The Government is investing in this as required," he said.

Tshediso Matona, the Secretary of National Planning in South Africa's Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, echoed the need for countries to comply with the African Union's requirements.

"Countries must realise that if we don't comply with the African Union requirements and processes, it holds back the whole continent," he said.

"If there are problems we can look at how we can work to help each other. Some of us who have better capacity for collection of data can help those who don't have; but it is very important that everybody comes into the process."

Meanwhile, Begashaw also emphasised that Africa's struggle is imminent with people-centred SDGs like education and food security,

"Increased literacy has not necessarily translated into learning, mortality remains high relative to other regions, and one in three Africans is at the risk of food insecurity," he said.

"Thirty-one African countries are assessed by FAO to be in need of external assistance for food."

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