The sheer number of solutions being pursued is some cause for optimism, but ultimately it will be individual African countries that must accomplish the most challenging part of the work. Cameron, echoing a Center for Global Development report (pdf), pointed to the need for governments to invest in strong, independent national statistical offices. Those agencies will need consistent funding as well as checks against corruption and insulation from political whims. Only then can international aid and technical support be effective in helping them to reach new milestones.
Producing better data is just one step on the path to solving more urgent and tangible problems in Central Africa. However, it is an essential step. Policy makers need it. Aid organizations need it. Businesses need it. And, in a world where political, economic, and medical decisions are made on an international stage, the world needs it too. That vast gray gap on the map of the Earth isn’t just journalistic laziness. It is one of the few concrete symptoms those in the developed world ever see of the challenges that Central Africans face. So long as the gap is there, so are the problems.