African Countries Follow International Statistics Guidelines

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The reliability of economic statistics is a crucial concern now that African development is gathering pace and foreign investors need reassurance that they can rely on African statistics. This report, titled ‘Situational Analysis of the Reliability of Economic Statistics in Africa – Special Focus on GDP Measurement’ summarizes the situation regarding national accounts statistics in Africa.

It shows the availability of the basic gross domestic product (GDP) estimates, and considers the availability of survey data and price statistics from which the national accounts are derived. The publication also describes how far African countries are able to follow the international guidelines given in the System of National Accounts (SNA).

The information on which this report is based was collected by means of a questionnaire sent electronically to the national statistical offices of the 54 regional member countries of the African Development Bank. The survey provides a broad picture of the quality and availability of national accounts in Africa.

During 2012 concerns were raised in the international press about the quality of statistics in Africa and particularly about GDP estimates. In this context, the African Development Bank (AfDB) decided in March 2013 to create a survey in order to assess the reliability of GDP.

Forty-three of the 44 African countries that responded are now regularly publishing estimates of current price GDP from both the production and expenditure sides and almost all publish GDP at constant prices.  This represents a significant improvement compared with how the situation was a decade ago, when many countries had not published GDP estimates for several years. This report goes a long way to reassure the press and international observers.

Overall the study highlights the crucial role of a stricter adherence to SNA guidelines and, in particular, the adoption of a regular program of surveys of households, enterprises, and agriculture. To address these requirements, the AfDB is promoting the introduction of economic census rounds. These will allow the updating of national accounts as well as national consumer price indexes by all countries within a set period. The AfDB has also embarked on a peer review mechanism for national accounts in its regional member countries.