The success of the sustainable development agenda calls for a "data revolution" to support Africa's developmental endeavors at all levels, Ethiopian President Mulatu Teshome has said.
The president made the remarks at the opening of the 6th meeting of the Statistical Commission for Africa (StatCom-Africa-VI), in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, on Monday.
Quality statistical information is crucial, not only to provide the evidential basis for design and implementation of policies at national, regional, continental and international levels, but also to monitor and evaluate their impacts on economic growth and social improvements, Teshome said.
"The data revolution promotes embracing technology and innovation at all levels of statistical processes such as collection, processing, analysis and dissemination," he said.
National statistical systems are the main sources of such data, Mulatu said, adding that as a result they face an urgent need to reposition, adapt and strengthen their statistical production processes to meet widening, increasing and evolving needs of data users.
The four-day meeting, which will last through Thursday, is being held under the theme, "Enhancing the capacity of the National Statistical Systems to support policies for Africa's economic diversification and industrialization."
Since most SDGs require geospatial data, the president said, it is imperative for the continent to focus on "the use of technology in this new era of the data revolution to incorporate a geospatial data revolution in Africa."
He said Ethiopia is planning to conduct its 4th population and housing census this year, the country's first ever fully digital census.
South Africa's Statistician-General Risenga Maluleke emphasized the need for Africa to work together in building statistical capacity to support the continent's developmental aspirations.
He said technology and lack of funding could hamper such aspirations but added that such disruptors were not permanent though they may have long lasting effects.
"It's only when we work together that victory would be certain," said Maluleke, who also underlined the need to harmonize statistics on the continent. United Nations Statistics Division Director Stefan Schweinfest said the African continent needs data champions to advocate the importance of statistics for informed policy-making.
"Having reliable, accurate and accessible data will help us meet the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development," he said, noting that political leadership is crucial in the whole process.
African Development Bank (AfDB) Statistics Director Charles Leyeka Lufumpa said working together as the African statistical community, the countries should be able to meet the ever-increasing demand for data needed to track progress on the sustainable development goals, and Africa's 50-year development plan, dubbed Agenda 2063.
Urging greater focus on economic statistics, the director said lack of political will by some countries to allocate adequate resources toward regular censuses and surveys risks diminishing the reliability of national accounts data over time.