Researchers root for collaboration to curb data availability challenges

By NBM writer

Access to reliable, credible and up-to-date economic data has been cited as a challenge facing economic policy makers in their quest to chart favourable development plans in Africa.

Speakers at the recent (June 1, 2023) African Econometric Society (AFES) conference led by Kenya’s National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Prof Njuguna Ndung’u and the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) Executive Director Prof. Théophile Azomahou highlighted the need for reliable economic statistics and related data provided by “econometric” professionals to aid development planning in the continent. 

Econometrics uses economic theory, mathematics, and statistical inference to quantify economic phenomena; effectively turning theoretical economic models into useful tools for economic policymaking.

The three-day forum brought together high-level economic policy leaders, including Presidential and Cabinet-level special advisors, eminent professors and members of the Diplomatic Community to Nairobi to discuss the best way forward for Africa to recover from economic shocks. 

“The need for adequate economists, statisticians, and econometricians, who are dependable, and available on a timely basis is widespread regionally, and internationally. In many of our African countries, National Accounts Statistics and Monetary Statistics are usually in arrears. And as a policymaker, I know how frustrating it is to work with scanty or stale data and evidence. So, challenges are enormous in this field,” prof. Ndung’u said while presenting his keynote address at the 2023 AFES meeting at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Nairobi.

He decried the frustration that economic planning and management technocrats continue to face due to unreliable data and called for concerted efforts among policymakers in Africa and beyond to address the challenge of current, credible and reliable data access in economic planning.

As an economic policy, research and planning capacity building institution, will play a key role in advancing the role of econometry in the country to boost economic resilience. The institution’s executive director Prof. Azomahou acknowledged the role that research plays in economic development and the need for AERC to transition to quality and excellence in research.   

“While AERC will continue strengthening the capacity of researchers and graduate students in Africa, the consortium will gradually change its face towards knowledge generation in economics and policy impact and advocacy,” he said. 

The Royal Danish Embassy Ambassador to Kenya Ole Thonke, who also spoke during the opening ceremony emphasized the need for better research to unleash the continent’s potential and address structural issues and challenges. 

“Despite all this growth and moving the continent forward, a lot of fundamental and economic issues are still the same. Many African countries are still struggling with imports and exports. I am a firm believer that Kenya and Africa have abundance of skilled manpower and natural resources that when put to good use via better research and policies, we will unleash more opportunities in Africa for a better future and this forum by AFES and AERC is one of the platforms that we need to drive our economy forward,” said Thonke.

Prof. Rosa Matzkin (University of California), President of The Econometrics Society expressed the need for Africa to be part of the society as part of their contribution to participate in research for economic measurements. She also acknowledged the need to promote well designed economic proposals. 

“Africa now has a seat in the committee, a clear indication of its frontier in research and the good work that the continent and its researchers are doing. Any national policy, be it in infrastructure, health, education, fiscal, incomes or monetary policy, in order to be an informed one and most likely to succeed, would require sufficient, reliable, and fresh evidence,” said Ms. Matzkin.   

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