IMF Survey: IMF Builds Statistical Capacity in Africa

August 11, 2009

  • IMF embarks on ambitious expansion of technical assistance statistics
  • Project aims to improve macroeconomic, social indicators in 22 African countries
  • New modular approach key to success of project

The IMF is helping 22 sub-Saharan African countries improve the quality, coverage, and dissemination of key statistics.

IMF Builds Statistical Capacity in Africa

Project helps African countries collect, disseminate socio-demographic indicators such as agricultural production (photo: Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters)

Technical Assistance

The institution has been assisting countries that require greater attention and technical assistance in enhancing capacity building in macroeconomic and financial statistics, and in socio-demographic statistics.

The project—based on the IMF’s General Data Dissemination System (GDDS) framework—was funded by the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID). The $8 million three-year project, implemented jointly by the IMF and the World Bank, will be completed September 30, 2009.

The project—referred to as the Phase II project—builds on the results of the DFID-funded GDDS Phase I project (2002–2006) for 15 Anglophone African countries, which led to all but one country participating in the GDDS—a general framework established in 1997 to guide participating countries in developing sound statistical systems as the basis for the provision of data to the public. The Phase II project has been expanded to 22 sub-Saharan African countries.

Modular approach

An innovation of the Phase II project is its focus on a modular approach for technical assistance delivery. Each module brings together five or six countries with similar needs in the same areas of statistics. The modules were implemented in steps, beginning with an opening workshop for the participating countries, during which they defined their own action plans that outlined the objectives of the country, the issues to be addressed, the timetable for progress, and the expected outputs.

The workshop was then followed by a series of 2–4 missions over 18–30 months to help the countries implement their action plans. Several mid-stream regional workshops were also held to address common issues that arose in the course of implementing the modules.

An important advantage of the modular approach has been that the small groupings of countries with similar needs have facilitated the sharing of knowledge and lessons learned.

Effective collaboration

A project based on the GDDS framework offered a natural opportunity for collaboration between the IMF and the World Bank, as it includes both macroeconomic and socio-demographic statistics. In order to implement the project effectively, the two institutions agreed at the beginning of the project to a common structure, format, management, and reporting system for the provision of technical assistance.

The IMF and World Bank have each conducted seven modules. The IMF modules focused on the balance of payments, national accounts, government finance, and monetary statistics, and the World Bank modules included population, health, labor, justice and security, and agricultural statistics. In addition, modules were offered in several functional areas, such as data dissemination, the management of statistical systems, and support of the statistical objectives of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU). Each country generally participated in two IMF modules and two World Bank modules, resulting in about 80 country action plans and sub-projects across the 22 countries.

An important result of this collaboration was the establishment of a National Summary Data Page (NSDP) on the national websites of a number of countries (Lesotho, Malawi, Seychelles, and Zambia), which provides up-to-date data on macroeconomic and socio-demographic statistics to users. These websites are maintained by the national authorities, and many of the other project countries have expressed interest in establishing NSDPs.

Measurable results

In the IMF component of the project, the following are highlights of results achieved so far in selected modules and countries.

• Monetary statistics module: In Kenya a more comprehensive reporting system for the traditional banking system was introduced and is now fully functional, and in Namibia a reporting system for the broader financial system was developed. At the regional level, a successful workshop was conducted in 2008 in which an action plan was developed for the harmonization of monetary statistics in the East African Community.

• Balance of payments module: The IMF and Bank of Uganda hosted a workshop in 2008 for the six countries in the module (The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, and Nigeria) to demonstrate a low-cost, streamlined enterprise survey of cross-border capital flows that Uganda had developed and successfully implemented. This example of south-south cooperation supported by the project proved useful to the countries in developing preliminary international investment positions, a key output of the project.

• National accounts module: Good progress has been made in expanding the use of existing source data to improve national accounts, such as the use of previously unused data for the petroleum sector in Nigeria, and the use of an economic census in The Gambia to create a new benchmark for annual GDP.

• Government finance statistics module: Seychelles completed a fully automated bridge table to move information from the Treasury database into the presentation table consistent with the Government Financial Statistics Manual 2001 (GFSM). It also produced detailed monthly data on consolidated central government including the Social Security Fund.

• SACU module: In a workshop conducted for the SACU countries (Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, and Swaziland), a summary was produced of current statistical practices of each country with respect to SACU transactions. A matrix outlining how these practices lined up with international best practices was also prepared, with a view toward improving harmonization of statistical treatment among countries.

Now nearing completion, the results of the project are being assessed in terms of their sustainability, adaptability, and lessons learned. The feedback so far has been encouraging. Many participants have expressed their appreciation for the targeted assistance that was designed to address each country’s specific needs and achieve measurable results within the project timeframe.

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