What does a Data Revolution in Africa look like?

(Pic credit: Onthinktanks.org)

The Heads of State and Government at the 23rd AU Summit within the Common Africa Position on the Post 2015 agenda were convinced of the need for structural transformation for inclusive and people centered development in Africa. They tersely came to an agreement on how such a developmental approach requires the creation and enhancement of adequate policy space and productive capacities, notably through infrastructure development; science and technology; transfer and innovation; value addition to primary commodities; youth development and women’s empowerment. They also agreed that this approach requires addressing the challenges posed by climate change; desertification and land degradation; drought, loss of bio diversity; sustainable natural resource management; and the promotion of a responsive and accountable global governance architecture.

Critical to this discussion therefore is: how can data assist in mitigating these challenges and existing gaps whilst offering new insights on how to accelerate development across the continent?

During the two day National Forum on harnessing the data revolution for sustainable development held in Nairobi Kenya between 28th and 29th August 2015, multi stakeholders from government, private sector, academia, nonprofit organizations, local communities and development partnerships convened a midst whetted ambition to begin addressing the informational aspects of development decision making in a coordinated way.

“Where will the locus for disaggregated data be situated with the shift in development trends? Will it be open data sources, national statistics offices or will it be with philanthropy organizations that are increasingly shifting to partnerships with the private sector? ODA is decreasing in countries such as Kenya which have shifted to middle income status. Will it be in conjunction with private sector organizations? How will this revolution look like?” asked a keen participant in the audience.

These are fundamentals questions reeling in everyone’s mind as crucial conversations on the data revolution embark in Africa ahead of the Sustainable Development Goals being acceded to in September 2015 and the convening of the World Data Forum scheduled to be held in 2016.

Without high-quality data providing the right information on the right things at the right time to the right people; designing, monitoring and evaluating effective policies becomes almost impossible. Institutions require bolstering to manage and steer this new shift in development with adequate resources and political will being the key priorities to making this a reality. How will this happen amidst the current challenges facing the continent? Below is an info graphic highlighting some of them.

(Pic Credit: APHRC)

The sparking of  a conversation on harnessing the data revolution for sustainable development marks Kenya’s first step in working towards a global partnership for a data revolution, establishing the country as a leader on the African continent and globally.

Nonetheless, a common challenge facing majority countries in Africa today, Kenya not excluded,  is the lack or inadequacy of fundamental statistics measuring the quality and quantity of taxes and trade, births and deaths, or even growth and poverty.  Add on to this the mis-match in priorities between governments in Africa and the donor community. Governments alike require sub-national data to help guide budgetary and policy decisions while on the other hand external donors often want national level data to make allocation decisions across countries; this priorities have often been misaligned further exacerbating the already existing data gap.

As the deputy president of the Republic of Kenya Hon. William Ruto rightly put it, “the data revolution must not become a struggle between an ancient regime of traditional official statistics and a new big data republique. A worthwhile revolution should develop greater capacity for national statistics offices while fostering integrated and harmonious relations with other data producers. “

As espoused in the Africa Data Consensus, a sustained data revolution is needed to drive social, economic and structural transformation in every African country. Such a revolution will also make it easier to track our countries’ progress towards meeting national and globally agreed sustainable development goals, with a view to leave no one behind. The building blocks for an African data revolution are already in place. National Statistical Offices have long been the backbone of data production and management, producing official statistics and supporting data activities to create accurate and timely data for decision making. However, today’s development challenges and prospects call for a broad data ecosystem that spans the entire value chain driven by national priorities and underpinned by the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics. This ecosystem must be inclusive of all forms of data – including official and other data – and involve all stakeholders.

*This article by the author was originally posted on www.dataforum.or.ke

UN Women steers three high-level side events at the Financing for Development Conference

On the second day of the Third Financing for Development Conference, taking place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 13-16 July 2015, UN Women organized three official high-level side events to highlight the importance of transformative financing on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

(Photo: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)

In the morning session on July 14th, together with the World Bank Group, UN Women hosted a high-level event on “Financing for Gender Equality: Results and Good Practices”, with panelists including United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Prime Minister of Sweden Stefan Löfvén, India’s Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha, former Minister of Finance from Nigeria Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, President of the World Bank Group Jim Yong Kim, and President and CEO of the Global Fund for Women Musimbi Kanyoro, and Mastercard Executive Director of International Development Tara Nathan. The panel was moderated by UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

“By 2030 there must be complete 50:50 gender equality. Let’s commit today”, the Secretary-General emphasized in his remarks. He reminded participants that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can only be achieved with an “equally ambitious financing agenda” that benefits all.

“We know based on evidence that gender equality is not only a condition for social justice but a power that can bring about social justice,” said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim.

The Prime Minister of Sweden said 2015 is the year to “close the gap between talking and doing … I challenge all actors involved in the SDGs to support Gender-Responsive Budgeting. It is a joint challenge and it is an opportunity.”

(Photo: UN Women/Binyam Teshome.)

The second UN Women official side event “Transformative Financing for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment- Catalyzing Action on the Addis Ababa Accord”, attended by UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri, provided an opportunity for Member States and partners to share examples of implementing gender equality, ranging from policies, to laws, programmes, the allocation of resources as well as the need to track spending and impact of those for women and girls. The Addis Ababa Action Plan for Transformative Financing for gender equality and women’s empowerment was launched at the event.

“We need money, and we need smart money”, stressed Justine Greening, Secretary of State for International Development of the United Kingdom, on the importance of catalyzing actions in Addis Ababa and beyond. To achieve gender equality, she said targeted actions and concrete commitments are needed.

Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, Special Envoy for Gender of the African Development Bank (AfDB), emphasized the need for national ownership because “how the money is used at the country level is determined at the country level.”

Meanwhile, Claver Gatete, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning from Rwanda, stressed that new structures and systems cannot succeed without changing mindsets and perceptions. Participants called for intensified efforts on gender-responsive budgeting and endorsed an Action Plan for Transformative Financing for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment.

(Photo: UN Women/Binyam Teshome.)

The last UN Women official side-event of the day “Financing for Gender Equality- Placing Women at the Centre of the SDGs in Africa” contextualized the discussions on transformative financing for women’s empowerment, bringing together stakeholders from government, the UN system, and civil society organizations to discuss innovative ways for financing gender equality. An interactive panel discussion involved policymakers from Ministries of Finance, Ministries of Gender as well as other development partners and UN agencies.

Giovanie Biha, Deputy Executive Secretary of UNECA, stressed that Africa’s transformation “relies on the potential of its people, especially women and girls.” Noting that gender will be mainstreamed in 11 out of the 17 goals of the SDGs, with one goal dedicated to gender equality and women’s empowerment, she said: “Our hope today is that Member States will invest more and invest well, with targeted and early interventions, with policies and adequate resource allocation.”

Zenebu Tadesse Woldetsadik, Ethiopia’s Minister of Gender, Women, Children and Youth Affairs outlined her government’s strides in increasing women in parliament and its 5-Year Growth and Transformational Plan, in which gender is a critical stand-alone goal.

Highlighting the critical role of adolescent girls in Africa’s transformation, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka stressed the need to continue investing in education and garnering political will: “We have enough human capital, but we need political will and the determination of our leaders.”

Throughout the day, speakers and panelists agreed that frameworks and commitments are important; however, these must be put into action through transformative and adequate resources, while tracking spending and impact.

– See more at: http://africa.unwomen.org/en/news-and-events/stories/2015/07/un-women-steers-three-high-level-side-events-at-the-financing-for-development-conference#sthash.h8Pj0ibk.dpuf

The salient piece of Africa’s economic puzzle; the inclusion of women

The African continent is growing, and it is doing so at an exponential rate. The Africa Pulse, World Bank’s biannual analysis of economic trends and data in the continent projects that economic growth in Sub Saharan Africa is rising from 4.6% in 2014 to 5.2% in 2015-2016 and 5.3% in 2017.

The report highlights that among other key actions, increased public investment in agricultural production is critical in driving growth in the region. Further, it also identifies the gripping challenge facing Africa as a whole; the lagging behind in achieving the Millennium Development Goals particularly in eradicating extreme poverty. Africa has achieved only a third of the poverty target of halving the proportion of people living under $ 1.25 a day.

Why is the continent floundering?

In the case of several African countries, it is evident that growth of the agricultural sector is a paramount component for both rural development and poverty reduction as the sector absorbs the increasing number of job seekers and generates income and livelihoods for others. With majority of the farmers being female, it is then a wonder why women are the poorest African citizens.

In Kenya’s case, the Ministry of Devolution and Planning’s status report on the Millennium Development Goals recognizes that the country is still faced with a wide gap between the genders which emanates from a strong paternal system among most communities as well as traditions and social norms of the past. A large number of women have no tenure security, lack of access to credit facilities, with their contributions most times going undervalued as they are constantly demoralized from meaningfully engaging in the very economic activities that are propelling the country forward.

What then can be done?

Some countries have since revised their constitutions making a number of positive changes for women, especially economically. This includes increasing women’s access to institutions and justice; and ability to control and use property. Customary laws which contradict new legislation many of which cement gender inequality are also now considered invalid in these countries.

Is this enough? No

It no longer is tacit information that empowering girls and women yields undeniable returns for everyone in the community. When women work, they invest 90% of their income back into their families, compared with 35% for men. Inclusion of women postulates higher incomes in households, better wellbeing of children and future generations subsequently reducing poverty across the spectrum.

Policy alone therefore does not affirm women’s progress. Our satisfaction or dissatisfaction when addressing gender parity should be based on performance indicators. There needs to be deliberate and vigorous efforts by all development partners to ensure strong visibility, actionable commitment and implementation of this.

“The question of women’s equality must be in the minds of all decision-makers, at all times, and in all the different phases of conceiving and executing plans for development. Conceiving a development project without the participation of women is like using only four fingers when you have ten. It’s an invitation to failure.” Thomas Sankara

Currently, UN Member States, the UN system, civil society organizations, academia, research institutions and other stakeholders around the world are engaged in various processes to negotiate a new global framework for sustainable development – the post-2015 development agenda. As we move from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), several stakeholders are actively advocating for a development framework, which integrates a comprehensive strategy that ensures the realization of women’s rights including economic, social and cultural rights, and civil and political rights.

The 3rd International Review Conference on Financing for Development that will be held in July 2015 in Addis Ababa is a crucial process that will aim to address the financing needs for sustainable development. At the moment, Member States are looking towards the conference to come up with an integrated policy framework that changes existing patterns of mobilization and effective use of all sources including public and private, domestic and international finance.

A regional strategic meeting on the Post-2015 development agenda and financing for development is being organized by FEMNET, the Post 2015 Women’s Coalition and AWDF. The organizers recognize the intersectional manifestations and challenges to women’s rights and gender equality. The main aim of these regional meeting is to facilitate collective action and create a space for organizing for the upcoming Financing for Development Conference in the Continent.

Got any comments/queries for the meeting? Kindly leave your comments below

Sustainable Development Goals explained

A video for the generation shaping the world: explanation of what Sustainable Development Goals are, where they came from, and how we can help achieve them.

Video cross posted from UN DESA

%d bloggers like this: