Full speed ahead: AfDB’s plan for a Pan-African information highway

A satellite dish. Photo by: David Ritter

The African Development Bank has installed a common information technology platform in 13 countries and the African Union Commission. The work is part of AfDB’s ambitious goal to help create a continentwide information highway.

Launched in November, the program aims to provide live data links between AfDB, central banks, national statistical agencies and line ministries in African countries to help ease the process for gathering and sharing data, while also improving the quality of the country data acquired, AfDB said in a media release on Tuesday (Feb. 19).

It targets finalizing the development and installation of data portals in all 54 African countries and 16 subregional and regional agencies by the end of July 2013. The 13 countries where work was completed are Cape Verde, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

As part of the initiative, AfDB has partnered with the International Monetary Fund’s statistics department to help countries develop National Summary Data Pages and with the European Union to boost access to agricultural data.

The initiatives to strengthen Africa’s data and statistics gathering and sharing capabilities play into a long-term strategy to boost the continent’s potential for long-term development.

Since the 1990s, a series of political measures, collaborations and strategies have helped improve the quality of the statistics emanating out of Africa, thought to be a supporting foundation for economic and social development. Yet a number of challenges derived from a lack of institutional capacity, funding, coordination, and the low profile of statistics on the continent, remain. The lack of relia able data has made tracking development progress in Africa at times tricky, as some economists have noted.

The Strategy for Harmonization of Statistics in Africa was first launched in 2009 in an effort to boost statistics gathering and work and was then adopted by the African heads of state, with the basic premise of generating timely and reliable statistics. All the same, African government heads of state noted following the January 2012 Fifth Forum on African Statistical Development that the “capacity to use statistical information remains weak and should be addressed as part of a larger, system-wide approach to capacity development.”

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About the author

  • Amy Lieberman

    Amy Lieberman is an award-winning journalist based in New York City. Her coverage on politics, social justice issues, development and climate change has appeared in a variety of international news outlets, including The Guardian, Slate and The Atlantic. She has reported from the U.N. Headquarters, in addition to nine countries outside of the U.S. Amy received her master of arts degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in May 2014. Last year she completed a yearlong fellowship on the oil industry and climate change and co-published her findings with a team in the Los Angeles Times.