TRAINING OFFICIAL STATISTICIANS IN AFRICA - A Paper Presented In The 2013 ISI Meeting Convened In Hongkong

Prof Innocent Ngalinda*

Eastern Africa Statistical Training Centre, Tanzania: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Dr Albina Chuwa
National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Tanzania: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Abstract:

Statistics capacity building in Africa is embedded in the 2006 Reference Regional Strategic Framework (RRSF) in line with the 2004 Marrakech Action of Plan (MAPS). RRSF was designed to improve development outcome and governance by strengthening African National Statistics Systems (NSS). Its goals are to raise awareness about the role of statistical information; to increase user satisfaction and use of statistical information by enhancing its quality and usability; to strengthen Statistical Training Centres (STCs); and to increase cost effectiveness and sustainability of statistical information systems. However, these initiatives for more than forty years or so have not yet raised the capacity of most countries in the region, since there is fewer trained official statisticians who can manage and produce reliable statistics and promote rigorously the use of statistics by policy makers and decision takers. This situation arises due to the fact that NSS have been employing statisticians who graduated from National Tertiary Institutions (usually Universities). These institutions do not adapt their training programs to the needs of National Statistical Offices. The University teaching of theoretical statistics is done from the supply side, it does not provide an understanding of the demand side. In Africa, Official Statisticians can only be trained at the STCs. However, most STCs face shortage of teaching staff, fellowships, teaching materials, budgetary support from the government and teaching space. This situation renders the capacity of most African countries to produce reliable statistics or to promote effective use of statistics by policy and decision makers. Therefore, this paper explains how the STCs in Africa have been prepared to overcome the problems, constraints and challenges not only by training of official statisticians, but also by addressing and harmonizing production of quality statistical information in Africa, one of them being the Anglophone Tanzanian-based Eastern Africa Statistical Training Centre (EASTC) which serves member countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and East African Community. The Centre was established in 1965 as a joint venture between United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the former EAC. The paper also describes how EASTC has embarked on a long-term programme of becoming the centre of excellence in Official Statistics by introducing an undergraduate degree programme in 2012 and expects to establish an internship training for graduates from Universities and commencement of the Master’s degree programme in Official Statistics in October, 2013.

1. Introduction

Statistics capacity building in Africa is embedded in the 2006 Reference Regional Strategic Framework (RRSF) in line with the 2004 Marrakech Action of Plan (MAPS). The RRSF, a coherent framework to build this capacity in line with Marrakech Action of Plan (MAPS, 2004), was designed to improve development outcome and governance by strengthening African National Statistics Systems (NSS). Its goals are to raise awareness about the role of statistical information; to increase user satisfaction and use of statistical information by enhancing its quality and usability; to strengthen Statistical Training Centres (STCs); and to increase cost effectiveness and sustainability of statistical information systems.

However, these initiatives have not yet raised the capacity of most countries in the region, since there are fewer trained official statisticians who can manage and produce reliable statistics and promote rigorously the use of statistics by policy makers and decision takers. This situation arises due to the fact that NSS have been employing statisticians who graduate from National Tertiary Institutions (usually Universities) (RRSF, et al. 2006). These institutions do not adapt their education programs to the needs of National Statistical Offices. The University teaching of theoretical statistics is done from the supply side, it does not provide an understanding of the demand side.

In Africa, Official Statisticians can only be trained at the STCs. However, most STCs face shortage of teaching staff, few fellowships, inadequate teaching materials, and inadequate budgetary support from the government as well as insufficient teaching space. This situation renders the limited capacity of most African countries to produce reliable statistics and unable to promote effective use of statistics to policy and decision makers to be unreliable.  For that reason the main challenge on the side of Africa, in the last couple of decades, has been the sharp increase in the demand for official statistical data to analyze African's development. The follow-up systems of the new programs for Africa's development such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the strategy frameworks for poverty reduction and the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), created new demands and frameworks to synthesize the demands for statistics.

The major reason for all these, as already pointed out, is the lack of clear and certain knowledge and understanding of what Official Statistics are all about, and of how one becomes an Official Statistician. Before we look at what are official statistics, it is pertinent at this point to know the stages that one goes through before qualifying to be an Official Statistician.

There are four stages that one goes through before becoming a qualified Official Statistician. These are:

  1. Becoming a Mathematician.
  2. Graduating as a Theoretical Statistician, having mastered Statistical Theories and Methods.
  3. Specializing in Applied Statistics, i.e. knowing how to apply statistical principles and methods.
  4. Mastering Official Statistics, i.e. having expert knowledge and skills of producing Social Statistics, Economic Statistics and the Statistics of Cross-cutting Issues.

Official Statistics are statistics published by government agencies or other public bodies such as international organizations. They are usually produced and compiled by government ministries, departments and agencies.1 Usually such statistics are produced or collected in accordance with specified criteria. Currently the criteria are as given by the UN Statistical Commission2 in 1994 as a global standard, and are officially known as The Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics. 3

Official Statistics, therefore, provide quantitative or qualitative information on all major areas of citizens' lives, such as economic and social development, living conditions, health, education, and the environment.

Official statistics are collected and produced by NSOs, or other organizations that form part of the national statistical system in countries where statistical production is de-centralized. These organizations are responsible for producing and disseminating official statistical information, providing the highest quality data. Quality in the context of official statistics is a multi-faceted concept, consisting of components such as relevance, completeness, timeliness, accuracy, accessibility, clarity, cost-efficiency, transparency, comparability and coherence.

As pointed out earlier, the Universities do not adapt their training programs to the needs of National Statistical Systems because the teaching of theoretical statistics does not provide an understanding of the demand side. For that reason, any capacity building in Official Statistics has to take into account the nature of way Official Statistics are produced.

It’s a fact that Official Statistics cannot be taught in every University as Official Statisticians are not required in large numbers, thus having a University curriculum in Official Statistics for every country is unnecessary and will be wastage of meagre resources. Bearing in mind that Official Statistics do change from time to time especially after meetings like this (SADC Statistical Committee and others), changing the University curriculum takes time while for the STCs it is a matter of direction from these kind of meetings that can effect the adaption of new emerging issues promptly.

Its is a given fact that, despite the existence of Universities, with the wave of African independence in the early 60s, various statistical training centres in the continent for English and French-speaking countries were established. One of such training centres is the Eastern Africa Statistical Training (EASTC) whose aim is to serve member countries falling under SADC, COMESA and EAC.

After the introductory remarks, the rest of this paper provides the current progress, challenges and the way forward on strengthening EASTC.

1. Such agencies are like NSOs, Immigration Department, Police Department, Ministries.
2.The UN Statistical Commission is a functional commission of UN Economic and Social Council. It is the global apex inter-governmental organ on statistical and statistical development. It is attended by Chief Statisticians of UN member countries and international organizations.

2. Establishment of EASTC

As part of addressing the statistical capacity building in East Africa it was felt, at the Inter-territorial meeting of the East African Statisticians in February, 1963, that the then existing training facilities in statistics at the three Universities in East Africa were not adequate. Thus, it was decided to pool the resources of the three participating countries, namely Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, to establish a full time Training Centre for this region.  Unfortunately later was found that the pooled resources of the three National Statistical Offices of the participating countries and also of the East African Statistical Department of East African Common Services Organization were not sufficient to set up such a Training Centre.

At the third conference of the African Statisticians in October, 1963, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), agreed to assist in the establishment of such an additional English speaking Statistical Training Centre and the East Africa Statistical Training Centre (EASTC) started functioning with effect from 30th August, 1965 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania as a joint project of the Eastern African Common Services, predecessor of the East African Community, and the United Nations Development Programme.

At the end of the joint sponsorship of the Centre between UNDP and the East African Community (EAC), successor to EACSO, in 1972, the Statistics Department of University of Dar es Salaam wanted the Centre to become an integral part of it.  But the Senate and the Council of the UDSM decided that the Centre be made a completely autonomous unit like the former Institute of Public Administration wholly financed by the Community. Thus the EAC smoothly took over the running of the EASTC.

At the collapse of EAC in 1977, the Centre was not left untouched. Therefore, only a temporary arrangement was set up to enable the EASTC to continue rendering its services while a permanent arrangement was being worked out.  In April 1978, the Statistical Training Programme for Africa (STPA), under the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), requested the Tanzania Government to run the Centre. It was agreed that the Centre remains REGIONAL and should be expended to serve more states in Eastern Africa sub-region in addition to the partners of the former EAC. The temporary arrangement operated until 1994.

In 1994 Tanzania and user countries signed a diplomatic protocol in which obligations and privileges of user countries were specified and  the number of its user countries to be served were expanded to thirteen, namely; Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. This is the time the Centre’s name was changed to “Eastern Africa Statistical Training Centre”.  Other five countries joined later South Africa, Mauritius, Namibia, Eritrea and South Sudan.

Following that agreement, a law was passed by Tanzania Parliament to establish the Eastern Africa Statistical Training Centre in November 1994 (Tanzania Parliament Act No.28 of 1994). The law assures user countries of participating in the activities of the Centre including membership in the Advisory Board and access to the facilities of the Centre.

The Centre is governed by both the Ministerial Advisory Board comprising public servants in Tanzania on administration and policy matters, while the Regional Advisory Board, consisting of heads of statistical services in user countries, is mandated to provide technical and professional advice.

3. EASTC as Intermediate Learning Institution (1965-2011)

The Centre’s original purpose was to offer academic qualifications to Government workers in National Statistical Offices who joined civil service direct from schools (secondary and high schools) but had a vast experience in statistical activities.  Thus EASTC at that time focused on training a low level and intermediate level, i.e. certificate and diploma.

The following table shows the graduate achievements of the Centre since its establishment in 1965.

Table 1:         Graduate Achievements of EASTC: 1965 to-date


Country

1965-2001

2002- 2012

Country Total

South Africa

-

231

231

Uganda

221

51

272

Malawi

35

31

66

Namibia

33

12

45

Swaziland

27

0

27

Tanzania

883

490

1,373

Seychelles

16

3

19

Burundi

5

0

5

Zambia

156

15

171

Kenya

381

2

383

Zimbabwe

52

12

64

Sierra Leone

3

0

3

Sudan

32

16

48

Botswana

59

14

73

Ethiopia

14

0

14

Gambia

27

0

27

Liberia

1

0

1

Lesotho

22

0

22

Nigeria

1

0

1

Total

1,968

877

2,845

Source: EASTC

As it can be observed from the table, it is evident that the number has been decreasing from 1968 through 735 to 142; this is because more and more NSOs are currently employing degree graduates, instead of certificate and diploma graduates only. Therefore, it might be uneconomical to sponsor somebody for certificate or diploma studies.

4. EASTC as the Higher Learning Institution (from 2012)

During the year 2011/12, EASTC has experienced a number of developments associated with transforming its operations to suit requirements of being a higher learning Institution. This has led to concentrating more on degree training rather than certificate and diploma.

In its endeavour to contribute towards the solution of the shortage of Official Statisticians, EASTC has taken seriously the need for contributing towards the need for transforming theoretical statisticians, who are already experienced and still working in NSSs, into official statisticians.

For that reason, it is currently developing an internship programme that is expected to begin in October 2013. This internship programme will have two parts i.e. Social and Economic Statistics parts. The mode of delivery will be either full-time for one year or part-time since it is not possible to engage all statisticians from their offices. Thus all programmes will be in modular form that can be part of short courses and distance learning. Successful graduates of internship will be offered the Post Graduate Diploma in Official Statistics and later for those who will be interested to continue with Master’s degree can complete the remaining module.

This arrangement has the advantage of being economical, because instead of going abroad for studies of similar nature, a student can study the same programme at EASTC. It is evident that EASTC is focusing more on capacity building for NSS staff at postgraduate level and short courses. The Centre is encouraging potential statisticians in user countries to study theoretical statistics in their country universities; and before they are employed by their country NSS they can join EASTC for one year of internship. The Centre is also exploring the possibilities of assisting user countries to train the certificate students in their respective countries.

In addition, experience has shown that there are few NSS statisticians who pursue postgraduate studies. This is due to the fact that institutions offer post-graduate studies in one or two areas of Official Statistics and most of them are outside the continent. With the economic problems in Africa, it is not viable to send many statisticians outside the country, e.g. the National Bureau of Statistics of Tanzania only 18 percent of statisticians have a Master’s degree, and only one has a Ph.D.  Therefore, by introducing post-graduate studies, EASTC has made it advantageous to SADC countries to train more Official Statisticians.

5. Conclusion

This paper has attempted to clarify the concept of, and indicators of, Official Statistics in the context of Africa. It has also described and explained the serious deficiencies and challenges in effective demand for and supply of statistics in SADC Countries. It has suggested the general ways of dealing with the said deficiencies and challenges; and by using the example of the Eastern Africa Statistical Training Centre, as a capacity building institution in Official Statistics it has shown how the solution to the problems is possible.