In 2009, South Africa hosted the 57th Session of the International Statistical Institute (ISI). The ISI is a prestigious professional body of statisticians worldwide. Hosting the ISI Congress for the first time on the African continent, South Africa asked itself a question that remains relevant to this day: What value will South Africa and Africa yield in hosting an international conference? We asked ourselves the following questions:

As the global community wrestle with notions of big data and the data revolution for Sustainable Development Goals and National Development Plans in this century, are we building the right capacity to meet these challenges going forward?

Whether it is a Congress of the ISI or the Scientific Studies of Population (IUSSP) or in 2017 or global statistics and development platforms, can African demographers, scientists, official statisticians and development practitioners hold their own?

Are we pacing ourselves relative to the ongoing and even rapidly growing methodological discourse?

Have we sufficiently built the capacity of young statisticians to make a meaningful contribution to the statistical development of Africa?