3 Nigerian statisticians tell us what Africa needs as we mark African Statistics Day

On the 18th of November every year since 1990, the continent has celebrated the African Statistics Day (ASD) in honor of statistics. According to the Africa Centre for Statistics, under the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), this day is also memorialized in order to increase awareness about the important role statistics plays in all aspects of social and economic development in Africa.

This year’s ASD celebration is themed: “Better data for better lives: Harnessing modern technology to enhance national statistical systems.”

According to Analyse Africa, Africa has excellent growth potential, due to the fact that all 54 countries have access to 1.2 million data records, 33 world-renowned data providers, 4400+ indicators, 15 years of data and 1 portal for African data.

Ventures Africa reached out to a few statisticians working at the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), being the authoritative custodian of official statistics in Nigeria, based in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The NBS has gone through different institutional and operational changes since the late 40’s and has gone from being a small department to having offices in all states of the federation, six zonal offices and three Schools of Statistics.

Here’s what they had to say about the importance of statistics in everyday life, the Nigerian statistics landscape and where Africa is headed in terms of the use of statistics for economic development.

Statistical figures serve as warning signals on developmental tendencies for the government of any country. Without it, there may be indecisions, uncertainties and wrong postulations in relation to budget plans, metereological data or natural disasters. Countries have access to statistics in order to aid in helpful readjustments. In terms of economic development, African countries have active centers of statistics and the information they disperse can be used by the government to maximize the chances of a better future for its citizens. There is no doubt that statistics can make the continent prosperous in her own right – Ernest Ehimare, Programme Analyst, NBS.

As the continent marks the African Statistics Day, Nigeria has come a long way with new technical, institutional and organizational capabilities. For instance, the use of Computer Assisted Personal Interview (CAPI) devices to capture data has produced significant results like timeliness, reliability, boosting data users’ confidence but if the locals have no idea how it works, the whole process becomes a waste of time. What is needed, in Nigeria and other parts of Africa, is the promotion of the demand and use of data among policy-based institutions at both the federal and state levels – Kayode Olaniyan, Economist, NBS.

The entity called Nigeria is nothing without statistics. The beginning and end of borders as well as coordinates are all gathered by data analysts and made available for public knowledge through data management. Statistics cut across all facets of life – inanimate, artificial intelligence, living things and outer space. Statistics are simply facts, whether they are scientifically based or dynamic based.  Generally, Africa still needs to grow in the area of statistical support and awareness, especially in the latter, it is not enough to have students studying the course at schools. We need to have awareness campaigns and boot-camps for youngsters to prove that statistics is more than just a bunch of numbers, but an important factor in societal growth – Peter Mbamo, Statistician, NBS.

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