Africa by numbers: Knowledge & Governance
How much do we know about income, growth and poverty in Africa? Much less than we would like to think. While the phrase ‘lies, damned lies and statistics’ reminds us that inaccurate statistics is not a problem particular to Africa, the magnitude of the knowledge problem recently led the World Bank Chief Economist for Africa to declare “Africa’s Statistical Tragedy”. This knowledge problem translates into a governance problem. Without reliable facts evidence based policy may turns into policy driven evidence – the opposite of what was intended. From the Millennium Development Goals to the ‘Data Revolution’ envisaged in the post-2015 round of future development indicators – there is an increasing demand for data. A new agenda for data for development in Africa is required – where local demand, incentives and applicability is at the center.
Morten Jerven is an economic historian with a PhD from the London School of Economics. He is Associate Professor in Global Change and International Relations International Environment and Development Studies (Noragric) Norwegian University of Life Sciences. Previously he has been working at the School for International Studies at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. He is the author of Africa: Why Economists Get it Wrong and Poor Numbers: How We Are Misled by African Development Statistics and What to Do about It, and has published widely on African economic development, especially on patterns of economic growth and economic development statistics. Poor Numbers was picked by Bill Gates, Foreign Affairs and the ONE Campaign as one of the most important books in 2013.