Q&A with Charles Leyeka Lufumpa, Director, AfDB Statistics Department, and Officer-in-Charge of the Chief Economist Complex

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The Bank hopes to lead transformative changes in Africa’s energy systems, agriculture and land-use systems. It is also committed to ensuring inclusive and green growth. How does it endeavour to do so? What is the role of agricultural statistics in solving energy and food security challenges? The African Development Bank Group Director, Statistics Department, and Officer-in-Charge of the Chief Economist Complex, Charles Leyeka Lufumpa, discusses these issues in the lead-up to the Bank’s 2016 Annual Meetings in Lusaka. Excerpts.

This year’s Annual Meeting will address energy and climate change in Africa. What are the expectations? What are we doing differently?

Charles Leyeka Lufumpa: Africa’s ability to achieve structural transformation for inclusive growth and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) hinges critically on ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. However, sustainability and affordability could be in conflict and therefore achieving energy access while being cognizant of climate-change implications could limit Africa’s ability to harness its conventional energy resources, especially oil, gas and coal. This calls for innovative policies and financing models that harness synergies and limit trade-offs.

In this regard, the Bank Group has launched the New Deal on Energy for Africa and a Transformative Partnership on Energy for Africa, to light up and power Africa by 2025. This is a transformative Bank initiative to ensure universal access to electricity for all Africans by 2025, while decoupling the continent’s economic productivity from carbon dioxide emissions. Under the New Deal on Energy, the AfDB will commit more resources and leverage partnerships to mobilize additional resources from development partners and the private sector for investment in the energy sector, including climate finance. We also plan to work with national governments to raise investment rates in the energy sector from the current average level of about 0.3% of GDP to at least 3.4% of GDP. Furthermore, the Bank will support African governments in strengthening energy policy, regulation and sector governance. The Bank’s research agenda in this regard is also evolving to strengthen analysis and the knowledge base in the area of energy and climate change.

This year’s Annual Meetings should help us think through the mechanisms of making the aspirations of the New Deal – universal access for all Africans by 2025 – a reality. It is also an opportunity for the Bank to garner support for this very important agenda. 

The Bank hopes to lead transformative changes in Africa’s energy systems, agriculture and land-use systems. What will be the roles of statistics in the next decade in developing reasonable statistical data that will support African countries in solving their energy and food security challenges while ensuring inclusive and green growth?

Charles Leyeka Lufumpa: The role of statistics in informing the transformative agenda has, therefore, never been more important. Timely and reliable data is essential for monitoring progress towards achieving the Bank’s High 5s transformative agenda for Africa as well as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the international community, including all African countries, in September last year.

The ambitious programs in Africa’s energy systems, sustainable agriculture and land-use systems being undertaken by the Bank, development partners and African government should be grounded on good data to ensure value-for-money assessments, monitor progress, and evaluate impact. Effective land-use, for example, requires complete land registries in Africa, and a better understanding of land value. Likewise, electrification programs should be supported by good population statistics and settlement patterns.

The demand for good data has never been greater and although national statistical systems in Africa are progressively generating better and more data to inform Africa’s development process, challenges still remain which must be addressed. However, generating good data to inform Africa’s transformative agenda will require substantial financial resources and improvements in statistical institutional capacities in African countries. To this end, the Bank will continue its leadership role in providing financial and technical support for statistical capacity development in African countries – anchored on the aspiration to meet the data needs for informing and monitoring the SDGs and High 5s agenda. We are looking to narrow the data gaps across Africa by supporting National Statistical Systems in Africa (National Statistics Offices, sector ministries, Central Banks, etc.) to ensure they are well prepared for the data revolution that requires increased data quantity, quality and better disaggregation to support effective implementation of national development agendas and for monitoring of the SDGs. There are few areas which will require special attention in the next 10 years, such as environmental and climate change statistics. These areas have not been well developed in most countries and in fact few have institutions in place for dealing with environmental protection. We plan to improve both data collection and analytical capacities in these areas across Africa to foster the inclusive and green growth agenda.

Another key aspect of the Bank’s statistical work is to enhance data access and availability for decision-making in African countries. The Bank is very much ahead of the curve in this regard through its widely acclaimed Africa Information Highway (AIH) initiative which has significantly revolutionized data management and access across Africa. You will recall that in August last year, the Partnership in Statistics for Development in the 21st Century (PARIS21) based at the OECD, nominated AfDB’s Africa Information Highway as one of the most innovative data systems in the world for informing the SDGs agenda. As part of our AIH initiative, we have also unveiled the High 5s Data Portal to give periodic information about the performance of African countries in the High 5 priority areas. We shall soon be launching a similar initiative for SDGs. The application also provides an opportunity to identify data gaps while also providing information to enable decision makers to take timely corrective action where necessary.

Agriculture is the backbone of Africa’s economy, but the impact of climate change hinders productivity. To what extent has the Bank’s agricultural statistics contributed to helping African countries mitigate extreme events that increase the vulnerability of Africa’s poorest households?

Charles Leyeka Lufumpa: Climate change and farm productivity are intrinsically linked. In Africa particularly, where around 90% of agricultural lands are rain-fed, climatic vagaries are among the prime reasons for low and changing productivity. While other regions of the world have made significant strides to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climatic changes, African countries are still lagging well behind. If nothing is down to reverse this tendency and help Africa catch up, the impacts of climate change on agricultural productivity will go from bad to worse, as it will reduce land suitable for agriculture, endanger livestock, and shrink production potential of coastal regions. Recent estimates have shown that the economic impacts of climate change on Africa’s agriculture are evaluated at 0.4-7 per cent of GDP.

The Bank, as the premier African financial institution, is strategically positioned to assist African countries to transform their agricultural sector. As you are aware, we have in this regard launched the ‘Feed Africa’ initiative aimed at significantly transforming Africa’s agriculture sector and fostering job creation and economic diversification over the next 10 years. This includes actions to address the issue of the impact of climate change on agricultural productivity.

From a statistical perspective, good agricultural and environmental statistics are necessary for better tracking of climate change effects. This requires collection of high frequency environmental data to better predict extreme weather events as well as droughts. Currently, the Bank is leading the implementation of the Global Strategy for Improving Agricultural and Rural Development Statistics in Africa, in collaboration with FAO and ECA. The key activities under this program include development of sector plans for agricultural statistics in African countries, providing country-driven technical assistance and training and development guidelines. Through this project, the bank has assisted about 48 African countries to generate the statistics needed to inform agricultural policy planning and decision making in African countries, including on production, food security issues and mitigating the impacts of extreme weather events. We plan to scale up this work and help African countries strengthen their statistical systems in order to meet the data needs for informing the agricultural transformation agenda for Africa over the next 10 years.