Africa: VP Bawumia Launches Africa Price Watch Center

The Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, has launched the Economic Commission for Africa's (ECA) Price Watch Centre for Africa via zoom.

The ECA Price Watch is an initiative aimed at developing a platform to provide information on prices and other related variables for all countries on the continent.

The Price Watch Centre, which was launched virtually on Tuesday with Dr. Bawumia as the Keynote Speaker and African Finance Ministers participating online, will make it possible for economic watchers and other stakeholders to access data and make comparative analyses of the movement of prices of goods and services in African countries.

Delivering his keynote address via zoom, Vice President Bawumia urged stakeholders in Africa's economic management to collaborate more and agree on common price mechanisms that determine policy and strategic developments as the continent marches towards greater integration.

"With Continental Free Trade and the march towards the Africa We Want, more and more there is the need to further streamline data collection on African economies for monitoring and evaluation and planning purposes. This underlines the urgent need for effective collaboration between the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), African Development Bank (AfDB) and other stakeholders to build the vital socio-economic statistics for Africa," Vice President Bawumia stated on Tuesday, August 11, 2020 in Accra.

Vice President Bawumia underscored the importance of a mechanism for common price comparison, saying "Every month, economies around the globe chart the course of price developments in local markets. The price pulse ranges from a variety of goods and services. The challenge has been how to interpret the price movements as vital sign of an economies across countries, and how to make comparisons for both public and private sector decision-making.

"How do we enhance the value of continent-wide price movement data? We need to make the data collection and the approaches to computation comparable and relevant.

"It is not so much a need to have a common basket as the basis for the measurement of the Consumer Price Index. Rather, we need to ensure that we have the relevant goods and services in each country basket, each weighted by its relative domestic importance. Weights must reflect local realities. Consumption basket must reflect the consumption choices of average local household. In fact, ensuring comparability of data should not only be limited to price developments but also to employment and unemployment data and other vital signs of African economies.

"Comparability and reliability of domestic price movements requires clear measurement guidelines, for example, for the treatment of excise taxes and other forms of government interventions that affect producer and consumption prices. The challenge for us is to work on common definitions and methodologies and produce timely data to inform decision making."

He expressed hope that the Africa Price Watch would "help address the measurement of the vital signs of our economies, much of which are anchored to price data. The information content of price variation data across countries is beneficial for public policy, and for business decision making.

"Moreover, the availability of timely data from a single aggregator source should help us overcome data gaps, and the lack of consistency in data definition and methodology that often characterize Africa Statistics.

"The march towards Regional Economic Communities, continental free trade and the aspirations for common monetary unit, all make single source data on price movements, and their implications for nominal interest rates, exchange rate movements, and purchasing power parity, vital for building the macroeconomic foundations of the Africa We Want."

Vice President Bawumia called on African governments to invest in ICT infrastructure and digital data collection tools, and urged the heads of national statistical offices to work with ECA in transforming their national statistical systems.

"It is my expectation and hope that the Price Watch Center we are launching today will mark the beginning of a new chapter in Africa's trade, commerce and policy setting operations for greater pricing commonalities across the continent. This is timely, particularly in the context of the Continental Free Trade project."

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