Today is Africa Statistics Day, designated by the Economic Commission for Africa to create an awareness of the role Statistics play in the development agenda of African countries. Various activities are expected across the continent, with some countries declaring it a working holiday. The theme for today's celebration is Enhancing Data Production and Dissemination for Effective Socio-Economic Policy Analysis and Management. This year's observance marks the sixth occasion on which African Statistics Day is being commemorated since its initiation in November of 1990. Professor Ben Kiregyra is the Director of the African Center for Statistics of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa today's celebration gives African countries the opportunity to use good statistics to improve the lives of the ordinary people on the continent.
"This is a day, which was set aside by a conference of African ministers responsible for planning and development to be celebrated each year with the view of increasing greater awareness in African societies about the role and importance of statistics. And this was in the context of the Addis Ababa plan of action for statistical development in Africa in 1990s, which was endorsed by the conference of African ministers in 1990," Kiregyra pointed out.
He described the importance of the celebration of African Statistics Day.
"This day is significant in the sense that it creates great awareness about the need at country level of a government to not only ensure that good statistics are collected in the country, but also to make sure that good statistics are used by government and by the private sector, the civil society for planning, for decision-making, or monitoring for evaluation, and indeed for reporting," he said.
Kiregyra says various African governments are finding statistics useful.
"Statistics has really become part of the national infrastructure for development and that when they are weak, it becomes difficult to achieve development at country level," Kiregyra noted.
He said African countries have embraced the need to have statistics as a tool to help in the planning of governmental efforts.
"The African Center for Statistics being the Economic Commission for Africa advises countries on the theme for each year's celebration. And the theme for the celebration of this year is the challenge for food prices and agricultural development, the role of statistics in all these. So when the countries get the theme, then they begin to line up activities. And many activities are expected to be undertaken by countries including organizing workshops. Namely, workshops between users and producers of statistics to ensure that the two groups understand the importance of statistics. They understand the statistics are available and they understand what statistics need to be used and how they can be used in the policy and planning processes in the countries," he said.
Kiregyra said there is need for wide media coverage of today's activities.
"We also expect that there would be a number of articles written in national newspapers. We also expect in some countries, workshops, mainly for the media fraternity. And we expect the media, once sensitized, can be used as a channel for dissemination of statistics to the rest of society," Kiregyra noted.
As part of the commemoration, the Economic Commission of Africa has invited all its 53 member countries to join the celebration as a reminder of the essential functions, which statistics and development information systems serve in Africa's economic and social evolution