Vice President, Alhaji Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, has urged African governments to invest in ICT infrastructure and digital data collection tools.
He, therefore, called on heads of national statistical offices to “work with the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in transforming our continental statistical systems.”
Dr Bawumia said these during the ECA's virtual launch of a first-of-its-kind continental tool that offers a unique view of price variations in African countries, regional economic communities, and at the continental level.
He applauded ECA for the initiative, stating “this one-stop-shop for finding data” will go a long way to “increase ECA's relevance in Africa.”
“We need data on price movements to gauge how changes in consumer prices alone may be affecting the trends in income distribution, poverty levels, and inequalities, including especially among those who live on retirement incomes,” Dr. Bawumia said.
He pointed out that “as we open the doors to continental free trade, price level data will enable cross-country comparisons and understanding of regional markets and the competitiveness of producers across Africa.”
Dr Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of ECA, noted that the role of national statistics offices and national revenue authorities in ensuring that this platform has timely, accurate & up-to-date data will be crucial.
She cautioned that the “lack of price data to enable us to monitor, analyse and manage economies through informed policy decisions has often led to civil unrest” because when prices of things like food, oil, and energy go up, “people take to the streets.”
The initiative intends, therefore, to bring the prices and exchange rates of all African countries into one platform that's readily accessible to citizens, decision-makers, and other stakeholders. The platform will involve monthly, quarterly and annual analyses of inflation.
Cameroon's Minister of Economy, Planning, and Regional Development Alamine Ousmane Mey said “We need to strengthen the relationships between national information and statistics institutions and the ECA” because “without data and information, we cannot evaluate and monitor public policy.”
“We are talking about compiling data, which means integrating Africa. I see a bright future for this initiative,” he said.
In his remarks, South Africa's Minister of Finance, Tito Titus Mboweni, highlighted the fact that “Data helps political leaders understand the difference between what they might wish to have and what the reality on the gourds is.”
He added that “as we move towards actualising the African Continental Free Trade Area, we need timely and reliable data on prices and movements of goods and services to enable us to know if we're having macroeconomic convergence or divergence.”
The virtual launch was also attended by several other ministers of finance and economic development and representatives of national statistics offices from across Africa who acknowledged their role as key stakeholders in the initiative and pledged to contribute the required data.
This comes at a time when governments are keen to understand the impact of COVID-19 on citizens' capacity to purchase necessities as countries face lockdown measures.