The Africa Symposia on Statistical Development in Brief
The Africa Symposium on Statistical Development is a forum created to address a concern by African statisticians in a gathering in Yaoundé, Cameroon in the year 2005. Taking place against a background of poor performance of African countries in undertaking population census previously and a report that painted an unimpressive picture of the continent’s state of readiness for the 2010 Round of Population and Housing Censuses, it was decided that something needed to be done to improve the situation going forward. A fortification meeting was subsequently held in Cape Town in 2006 which ushered in the ASSD as a standing platform with an initial objective of mobilising all African countries to ensure that they carried out censuses in the 2010 round covering the period 2005–2014.
The Yaoundé meeting was held in the wake of a report by the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan to the General Assembly in September 2005 that showed glaring data gaps in monitoring progress made in Africa on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The main resolution of the first ASSD meeting in Cape Town was the call to Africa’s National Statistics Offices to re-enforce the need for the African statistical community to meet on an annual basis to engage actively in the ongoing revision of the Principles and Recommendations on Population and Housing Censuses (PHCs) to share best practices in the planning and management, execution, processing, analysis and dissemination of census data.
Amplifying and complementing this resolution was the decision of the 39th Session of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Conference of Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development held in Ouagadougou in May 2006 that assistance should be provided to countries emerging out of conflict. Furthermore, governments were called upon to make resources available for successful census taking. In carrying out these resolutions, the ASSD became an important platform for the African statistical community in its desire to realise unprecedented statistical development efforts on the continent. Five ASSDs were subsequently held in Kigali (Rwanda), Accra (Ghana), Luanda (Angola), Dakar (Senegal) and Cairo (Egypt). The Ministers responsible for CRVS in Africa in their first conference held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in August 2010 implored African statisticians to address yet another problem bedevilling the continent: CRVS.
Realising that the inaugural mandate of the ASSD had almost been accomplished, with over 20 countries having already undertaken a census and most of the remaining ones having made concrete commitments to do so, the Heads of National Statistics Offices adopted a resolution at the 6th ASSD held in Cairo, Egypt to implement the CRVS Ministers Call.
The 8th ASSD held in Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire in November 2012 was the second of the five sessions of the ASSD focusing on CRVS following the first of this kind held in Cape Town, South Africa in January 2012. These two symposia and the subsequent three will stand apart from the first six in that they would have expanded the pool of participants to include agencies and partners that were previously not part of the ASSD. The expansion has been necessitated by the multi-pronged nature of CRVS. Participants are now drawn from non-statistics ministries and partners such as those dealing with registration of births, deaths, marriages, divorces, etc. While the focus of the ASSD will be on CRVS until 2015, monitoring of population censuses and provision of inter-country support in this respect remains a key strategic imperative for the ASSD.
The 8th ASSD followed on the heels of the 2nd CRVS Ministers Conference held in Durban, South Africa in September 2012. The 2nd CRVS Ministers Conference concluded with the adoption of a statement urging (i) Member States to undertake in-depth assessment of the state of their national civil registration systems and develop a strategic and action plans for improving CRVS; (ii) the Secretariat and other partner organisations to continue to provide technical support to reinforce the capacity of Member States in CRVS operations and management through technical advisory services, workshops, training and provision of guidelines, (iii) Member States and development partners to reinforce the CRVS Secretariat at UNECA with adequate resources and appropriate staff complement to enable it to carry out its mandate as recommended by the first Ministerial conference; (iv) invited African Ministers of Health to join us in view of the important role of the health sector in the delivery of civil registration services to ensure a coordinated and integrated approach in addressing the challenges of establishing CRVS systems in Africa; (v) relevant national universities, regional research and training institutions to respond to the knowledge demand in improving death registration and causes of death certification in countries with the support from development partners; and (vi) urged the African Union to allocate the necessary financial and technical resources in support of the CRVS development agenda.
The ministers also reaffirmed their commitment to make the conference a dynamic forum that is used to discuss policy and strategic issues related to improving CRVS systems in Africa and support the AUC in its implementation processes.
In a nutshell, the Ministers conference’s main output is what could be referred to as a six-point call to action summarised in the table below.
Ministers Call to Action
||CRVS Secretariat and partners|
||Member States and partners|
||Academic and training institutions|
The 9th ASSD was the third of the ASSDs focusing on CRVS and was hosted by the Republic of Botswana jointly headed by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs and the Statistician-General of Statistics Botswana and drawing membership from all government departments and key development partners. The theme of the 9th ASSD “Promoting Use of Civil Registration and Vital Statistics in Support of Good Governance” was focused on use of CRVS systems in promoting good governance.
The theme of the 10th ASSD held in Kampala Uganda in 2015 was “A Decade of Statistical Development; Revolutionising Censuses and Civil Registration and Vital Statistics towards Africa Agenda 2063”.
The 10th ASSD rallied member States around a united statistical programme aimed at supporting the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of Africa Agenda 2063 vision. The symposium focused on four topical areas of statistics: data revolution, the 2010 Round of Population and Housing Censuses, the 2020 Round of Population and Housing Censuses and Civil Registration and Vital Statistics. It also marked a special milestone in the revitalisation of statistics in Africa. Particularly, the past ten years witnessed a revival of statistics in Africa through the setting up and resuscitation of pertinent statistical forums and initiatives driven by various stakeholders such as the African Development Bank, the African Union Commission, the United Nations Economic Commission and others. The revitalisation voyage has been captured in a book by Professor Ben Kiregyera which will be launched at the 10th ASSD itself. The symposium also marked the 10-year celebration of the African Statistics Journal.
The 11thASSD, which is the fifth and last in the CRVS five-year term will be hosted by the Government of Gabon, which has constituted a National ASSD Committee (NASSDC) headed by the Executive Director of the Uganda Bureau of Statistics and drawing membership from all government ministries and key development partners. The NASSDC is supported by an International Planning Committee which includes Statistics South Africa as the ASSD Secretariat, the ECA as the CRVS Secretariat, the African Development Bank, African Union Commission, United Nations Population Fund, United Nations Children Fund, World Health Organisation and other partners. The ASSD also receives support from local and international sponsors who also exhibit their products and also participate in the statistical discussions.
Having addressed the 2010 Round of Population and Housing Censuses as well as Civil Registration and Vital Statistics in the past 11 instalments, the 12th ASSD marks the beginning of the Economic Statistics focus for the 5-years round of symposia in the period 2016 to 2020. The 12th ASSD comes at a time when the continent is focusing on Agenda 2063 and defining Sustainable Development Goals programme for the next 15 years. As the 12th ASSD marks the beginning of the economic statistics round of symposia, it also is an advocacy platform to raise awareness among policy makers and the African statistical community of the importance and challenges of compiling basic economic statistics in Africa.
Whilst the current focus of ASSD is on National Accounts, the 2020 Round of Population and Housing Censuses that kicked in covering the period 2015 to 2024 is not being ignored, as well as the assessments undertaken by countries on the Africa Programme for the Accelerated Improvement of Civil Registration and Vital Statistics in Africa (APAI-CRVS). These are running parallel to the new focus and sessions dedicated to the progress reporting by countries will be dedicated in the ASSD programme.
The strategic leadership of the ASSD rests with the chairperson. Mr Pali Lehohla, South Africa’s Statistician-General and Head of Statistics South Africa is the chairperson of the ASSD. He is supported by a Secretariat which is also hosted by Statistics South Africa.