During the 1960s, African countries, through the Organization of African Unity (OAU), initiated a process of continental integration intended to ultimately foster and accelerate economic and social development as well as political stability. The African integration agenda, as outlined in treaties and protocols endorsed by African Heads of State and Government, addresses three main areas, namely political integration, economic integration, as well as social and cultural integration. For it to fully succeed, it requires not only quality statistical information, but also harmonized data across time and space.
Great strides have been made to date in the production of quality statistics to inform public decisions with support from national programs, continent-wide statistical development frameworks, as well as pan-African initiatives. Continental statistical development frameworks include the Addis Ababa Plan of Action for Statistical Development in the 1990s (AAPA) and the Reference Regional Strategic Framework for Statistical Capacity Building in Africa (RRSF). Continental initiatives include: the African Charter on Statistics adopted by African Heads of State and Government; the General Data Dissemination System (GDDS); the National Strategy for the Development of Statistics (NSDS); the African Symposium on Statistical Development (ASSD); and the establishment of the African Statistical Coordination Committee (ASCC).
Despite the manifest progress achieved, there remain a number of major challenges facing the African Statistical System (ASS), particularly with regard to current and topical events such as HIV/AIDS, environment and climate change, and more recently food and financial crises. Statistics are produced using methodologies that do not always reflect African realities and are not always comparable across countries. This is due to a number of constraints, including inadequate resources being allocated to statistical activities, a lack of institutional capacity, the low profile of statistics on the continent, inadequate coordination of statistical activities, and minimal consideration of African specificities in setting up international standards. Regional Economic Communities’ (RECs) statistical harmonization programs vary from one region to another and rarely meet the demand for harmonized statistics across the entire continent. The Strategy for the Harmonization of Statistics in Africa (SHaSA) is a continent-wide effort that directly responds to these challenges and supports the African integration agenda, particularly the Minimum Integration Program (MIP), which was adopted by the African Heads of State and Government in July 2009.
The vision of the ASS is to generate timely, reliable, and harmonized statistical information, covering all aspects of political, economic, social, and cultural integration for Africa. It is anchored on four strategic pillars and will be achieved through the establishment of a strong and operational ASS and actualizations of the African statistical renaissance. The four themes are: (i) to produce quality statistics for Africa; (ii) to coordinate the production of quality statistics for Africa; (iii) to build sustainable institutional capacity in the African Statistical System; and (iv) to promote a culture of quality decision-making. Each of these themes is analyzed below.
To Produce Quality Statistics for Africa
Quality statistical information is crucial not only for the design and implementation of policies at national, regional, and continental levels, but also for the monitoring of these policies and the evaluation of their impacts on society. Strategic Theme 1 seeks to ensure the availability of relevant information in all areas of integration. It encompasses three main objectives: Strategic Objective 1: To expand the statistical information base. The aim is to cover all dimensions of integration, including political, economic, as well as social and cultural. The approach will entail the undertaking of regular population and housing censuses (PHCs) and surveys, and economic censuses and surveys. It also calls for the strengthening and leveraging of administrative and other sources of statistical information, and the development of a statistical base to ensure the availability of a broad range of statistics at low cost.
To transform existing statistics for comparability.
This calls for the adoption of reprocessing and adjustment methodologies, and the production and validation of comparable data. It will contribute to the comparability of statistical data for quality decision-making in support of the integration agenda ex-post.Strategic Objective 3:
To harmonize standards and methods of statistical production.
Adapting international standards and methods to African realities and harmonizing them will contribute to the integration agenda. This is referred to as harmonization ex ante.
To Coordinate the Production of Quality Statistics for Africa
The poor coordination of statistical activities is repeatedly cited as a major hurdle to statistical development in Africa. Uncoordinated interventions by a number of different actors can lead not only to the duplication of activities but also to inefficiency in the use of resources. Strategic Theme 2 embodies initiatives to enhance the coordination of the African Statistical System (ASS). It sets out three strategic objectives, namely:Strategic Objective 1: To strengthen cooperation among institutions within the ASS.
This calls for the strengthening of the ASCC and of statistical units within RECs. It also calls for the creation of statistical functions in those RECs that currently lack such a function (AMU, CEN-SAD, ECCAS, Executive Summary xv and IGAD). The expected outcomes of this objective include harmonized programs and better coordination of statistical development.
To establish an effective coordination mechanism.
Establishing an effective coordination mechanism hinges on a number of components: the implementation of a coordination framework, the implementation of the African Charter on Statistics, the strengthening of the statistical function at pan-African institutions and especially at AUC (by transforming the Statistics Division into a Department); and the establishment of an independent African Statistical Institute. It is expected that these initiatives will result in a more effective use of resources and an environment conducive to statistical development.Strategic Objective 3:
To define statistical priorities to implement the integration agenda.
The identification of statistical priorities, and the selection and definition of statistical indicators, resulting in a harmonized work program and an ASS in line with integration priorities, will help to achieve this objective.
Building the institutional capacity of the ASS lies at the heart of the Strategy. Without sufficient capacity, members of the ASS will not be able to produce and disseminate the harmonized quality statistics that are necessary for the development and integration process. The implementation of Strategic Theme 3 links to three strategic objectives, namely:Strategic Objective 1: To reform and enhance National Statistical Systems.
Adopting statistical laws and regulatory frameworks consistent with the African Charter on Statistics, establishing autonomous NSOs, building independent governance structures, mainstreaming statistics in national development processes, developing and implementing NSDSs, conducting peer reviews, and creating adequate and sustainable funding for statistical activities should go a long way toward ensuring a reformed and enhanced NSS. Indeed, the implementation of these initiatives is likely to result in better coordination and development of statistical activities, improved NSSs, adequate and sustainable funding of statistical activities, a more robust regulatory framework for statistical activities, evidence-based facts for the integration agenda, as well as enhanced governance and advocacy for statistics.
To build sustainable statistical capacity.The realization of this objective will entail: the development of harmonized training programs; the strengthening of statistical schools and training centers across the continent, including the establishment of an African Statistics Training Center, participation in international training programs, ensuring the exposure of Young African Statisticians (YAS) in line with the ISIbalo capacity- building program. The expected outcomes include, among others, world-class statistical training institutes; a bigger pool of competent and operational statisticians, and sustained capacity to fund African statistical scholarship. Strategic Objective 3:
To establish an effective technological environment.
Developing a management information system (MIS) for the monitoring of the integration agenda, building a statistical Strategy for the Harmonization of Statistics in Africa – SHaSA xvi data warehouse, and standardizing dissemination tools and platforms will help achieve this objective. The expected outcomes of these initiatives include: the effective monitoring of integration efforts; better evidence-based decision-making; consistent dissemination of data; and accessible statistical information for better decisions.
To Promote a Culture of Quality Decision-making
The lack of a “statistics culture” is another major obstacle to statistical development in Africa. Policy- makers – and the public in general – overlook the vital role that statistics should play in society. This results in the current low profile of statistics in the continent and its ensuing problems, including inadequate resources. Strategic Theme 4 seeks to address this through the achievement of two objectives: Strategic Objective 1: To drive evidence-based decisions through the use of statistics. The implementation of two initiatives will help achieve this objective: (i) to engage policy-makers, especially legislators, in statistical discourse and (ii) to advocate more strongly for the use of statistics. This is expected to improve the quality of decisions, as well as economic and social outcomes. Strategic Objective 2: To improve communication of statistical information. This will entail developing a strategy for data dissemination and a communication plan, resulting in increased usage of statistics and improved quality of decisions as well as economic and social outcomes.
Through the implementation of the SHaSA, it is expected that comparable statistics will be generated to improve program implementation and decision-making in support of the regional integration agenda. Key activities and products generated from the strategic focal areas include: (i) the adoption of international standards and common methods adjusted to African realities and (ii) better coordination of statistical development efforts and sustained production of harmonized statistics to inform policy decisions. These key activities and products, among other things, will facilitate the free movement of people, goods and services, and lead to harmonized economic policies, improved intra-African trade flows, and greater integration of Africa into the global economic system.Implementation, Monitoring, and Cost
An implementation framework and its monitoring and evaluation (M&E) mechanism have been developed. This outlines the role of key actors identified in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, while capitalizing on their expertise and comparative advantages to achieve synergy in statistical capacity-building activities on the continent.
It is estimated that the cost of launching and implementing the Strategy and establishing all institutional arrangements will be about US$ 2.0 million