By CHIKA IZUORA
The World Bank has set aside a total of $379 million in International Development Association (IDA) credits and grants to help harmonise and strengthen statistical systems in seven West African countries.
The seven countries are Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Togo. The funding will also be allocated to support the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in their efforts to deepen regional integration in Africa.
The new project, Harmonising and Improving Statistics in West Africa (HISWA), aims to strengthen the statistical systems of participating countries and regional and sub-regional bodies, in order to help them harmonise, produce, disseminate and enhance the use of core economic and social statistics.
“High-quality and harmonised statistics are essential to support economic activity and regional integration as a way to address some of the key challenges facing countries in West Africa”, said Deborah Wetzel, World Bank Director of Regional Integration for Africa.
“Through its regional approach, the HISWA will allow for more cost-effective data and harmonisation of data across countries, which is instrumental in key areas such as promotion of free trade, convergence of economic policies, and many others”, she added.
Good data are essential to address the socio-economic development challenges facing the West Africa region in general, and the seven beneficiary countries in particular.
Regular population censuses, household surveys, data of critical social concerns and key economic statistics such as agricultural and enterprise censuses and surveys are key to inform the decision-making process, enable efficient allocation of resources, and assess the effects of development policies and interventions.
Despite progress over the past 20 years, institutional weaknesses and inconsistent financing limit the quality of statistics in West Africa, leading to poor knowledge management and difficulties in addressing emerging challenges in various development sectors.
HISWA is a regional project that will stimulate demand for data and increase the capacity of the National Statistics Offices in the beneficiary countries.
Key activities include, inter alia: the harmonisation of methodologies by the ECOWAS Commission; strengthened production of core economic and social statistics, including demographic and poverty statistics, national accounts and price statistics; the improvement of targeted administrative statistics; capacity-building, data dissemination; and institutional reforms.
The project will also help to improve and modernise physical and statistical infrastructure to help achieve its stated objectives.
Beyond the National Statistics Offices and the regional bodies, HISWA will provide reliable microdata, data platforms and statistics bulletins to a larger audience, including universities, researchers, students and the general public.
The project is also relevant to the Strategy for Harmonization of Statistics in Africa, SHaSA2, the continent-wide initiative aimed at addressing the constraints facing African statistical systems and promoting its regional integration agenda.
It also supports the implementation of ECOWAS’s regional strategy 2019-2023 that aims to raise the living standards of its member country populations.
By generating data critical to national and regional planning and monitoring, the project remains well aligned with the World Bank Group’s Regional Integration and Cooperation Assistance Strategy for sub-Saharan Africa and will help strengthen the connection between regional policy commitments and national planning.