Africa's Statistical Tragedy

7 Pages Posted: 5 Sep 2013

See all articles by Shantayanan Devarajan

Shantayanan Devarajan

World Bank Middle East and North Africa Region

Date Written: October 2013


While Africa may have overcome its growth tragedy, it is facing a statistical tragedy, in that the statistical foundations of the recent growth in per‐capita GDP and reduction in poverty are quite weak. In many countries, GDP accounts use old methods, population censuses are out of date, and poverty estimates are infrequent and often not comparable over time. The proximate reasons have to do with weak capacity, inadequate funding, and a lack of coordination of statistical activities. But the underlying cause may be the political sensitivity of these statistics, and some donors' tendency to go around countries' own National Statistical Development Strategies (NSDS). Greater openness and transparency of statistics, and a higher profile for the NSDS, possibly with “naming and shaming” of those who try to circumvent it, may help Africans turn around their statistical tragedy.

Keywords: Africa, gross domestic product, population, poverty, statistics

JEL Classification: C82, O47, O55

Suggested Citation

Devarajan, Shantayanan, Africa's Statistical Tragedy (October 2013). Review of Income and Wealth, Vol. 59, pp. S9-S15, 2013. Available at SSRN: or

Shantayanan Devarajan (Contact Author)

World Bank Middle East and North Africa Region ( email )

1818 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20433
United States

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