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World Bank allots US$379M to enhance statistics in West Africa

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The Board of the World Bank Group has allocated a total of $379 million in International Development Association (IDA) credits and grants to help harmonize and strengthen statistical systems in seven West African countries, including Liberia.

Liberia is to receive US$30 million, including US$15m IDA grant and US$15m IDA credit, respectively.

Other benefiting countries are Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Togo. The allocation is also to support the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in their efforts to deepen regional integration in Africa.

According to a press release, the new project, Harmonizing and Improving Statistics in West Africa (HISWA), aims to strengthen the statistical systems of participating countries and regional and sub-regional bodies, in order to help them harmonize, produce, disseminate and enhance the use of core economic and social statistics.

“Good data are essential to address the socio-economic development challenges facing the West Africa region in general and the seven beneficiary countries in particular. Regular population censuses, household surveys, data of critical social concerns and key economic statistics such as agricultural and enterprise censuses and surveys are key to inform the decision-making process, enable efficient allocation of resources, and assess the effects of development policies and interventions”, the release says.

It notes that despite progress over the past 20 years, institutional weaknesses and inconsistent financing limit the quality of statistics in West Africa, leading to poor knowledge management and difficulties in addressing emerging challenges in various development sectors.

HISWA is a regional project that will stimulate demand for data and increase the capacity of the National Statistics Offices in the beneficiary countries. Key activities include, inter alia: the harmonization of methodologies by the ECOWAS Commission; strengthened production of core economic and social statistics, including demographic and poverty statistics, national accounts and price statistics; the improvement of targeted administrative statistics; capacity-building, data dissemination; and institutional reforms. The project will also help to improve and modernize physical and statistical infrastructure to help achieve its stated objectives.

“High-quality and harmonized statistics are essential to support economic activity and regional integration as a way to address some of the key challenges facing countries in West Africa”, says Ms. Deborah Wetzel, World Bank Director of Regional Integration for Africa. “Through its regional approach, the HISWA will allow for more cost-effective data and harmonization of data across countries, which is instrumental in key areas such as promotion of free trade, convergence of economic policies, and many others”, she added.

Beyond the National Statistics Offices and the regional bodies, HISWA will provide reliable microdata, data platforms and statistics bulletins to a larger audience, including universities, researchers, students and the general public.

The project is also relevant to the Strategy for Harmonization of Statistics in Africa (SHaSA2), the continent-wide initiative aimed at addressing the constraints facing African statistical systems and promoting its regional integration agenda. It also supports the implementation of ECOWAS’s regional strategy 2019-2023 that aims to raise the living standards of its member country populations. By generating data critical to national and regional planning and monitoring, the project remains well aligned with the World Bank Group’s Regional Integration and Cooperation Assistance Strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa and will help strengthen the connection between regional policy commitments and national planning.