One of the largest regional conferences on the importance of data for better macroeconomic policies has ended in Accra. Organized by the Government of Ghana, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID), the conference brought together policymakers from over forty African countries as well as representatives from academia, banks, rating agencies, think tanks, and international organizations.
Mr Seth Terkper, Minister of Finance, opened the conference and the IMF Deputy Managing Director, Min Zhu, delivered a key-note speech on enhancing data for macro policies. "It is my hope that we will have an open conversation, a frank exchange of views, and learn from each other on the challenges and success stories on how data was made more accurate and how those data have been useful in improving our policies," Mr Terkper said.
He said the rich diversity of experiences could help to tell where to focus energies to make data better, where the most serious challenges and bottlenecks are, and how we can improve the ways we use those data to make the best policy decisions. "In Africa, as elsewhere, we need to jump ahead of crisis management when it comes to data, and seek to enhance the gathering, processing, dissemination and analysis of data to help us formulate and implement the best possible set of economic and financial policies," said Zhu.
Participants at the conference committed themselves to promoting the dissemination of data for enhanced evidence-based economic decision-making. Their discussions focused on the importance of accurate economic data for analysis and economic policy-making, the special challenges of regional integration for macroeconomic statistics, and the benefits of data transparency for policy making.
Reflecting on the significance of the conference, the Kenyan Central Bank Governor, Patrick Njoroge stated: "The conference provided a unique opportunity for high-level decision makers to exchange ideas and experiences so that we can work together to strengthen the data used for policy making."
The Directors of the IMF African and Statistics Departments Ms Antoinette Sayeh and Mr Louis Marc Ducharme, respectively also provided different perspectives on how data supports effective policy making. Mr Neil Jackson, DFID Chief Statistician, spoke to the conference on the objectives and achievements of the Enhanced Data Dissemination Initiative (EDDI), said DFID has supported IMF capacity development activities in Africa benefiting government agencies, national policy makers, civil society and external funding partners.
The conference culminated with a round table to explore the main challenges that African countries are facing to enhance data. This included: the appropriate minimum standards and benchmarks for data quality from a policy maker's perspective, what can be done to address the obstacles, and how the IMF can support these efforts, especially its technical assistance and training supported by external partners.
The conference presented participants with an opportunity to learn about the work on statistics that the IMF has been doing in Africa, including with the support of DFID through the EDDI project, now in its second phase. The EDDI2 project covers technical assistance to 44 economies in Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, and contains 10 modules on national accounts, prices, monetary and financial, balance of payments, and government finance statistics, as well as the dissemination of data.