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Paper Abstract: What do statistics tell us about income and growth in Sub-Saharan Africa? Less than we would like to think. Ghana recently announced an upward revision of GDP that increased income estimates by over 60 percent. Similar revisions are to be expected in other countries. Many statistical offices are currently using outdated data and methods. It is argued that with the current uneven application of methods and poor availability of data, any ranking of countries according to GDP levels is misleading. This paper emphasizes the challenges for ‘data users’ in light of these past and prospective revisions.
Transparency in reporting will be helpful in further focusing the attention of the development community towards the important role played by local statistical offices. GDP data are now disseminated through international organizations, but without any metadata. The challenges of monitoring progress towards the MDGs further highlight the capacity problem of statistical offices. Currently, neither data users nor data producers are getting the assistance they need.
About the Author: Morten Jerven is Assistant Professor in International Studies at Simon Fraser University and holds a PhD in Economic History from the London School of Economics. Since 2007, Jerven has researched issues of measuring development in Sub-Saharan Africa with a particular focus on the production of income and growth statistics in the region. This paper is based on research visits to Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia conducted from 2007 to 2010. Jerven has published in peer reviewed journals such African Affairs, the Journal of Development Studies and the Journal of African Economies.