Data Deserts: 10 African Countries We Know Little About

By Dana Sanchez Published: February 19, 2016, 1:20 pm
Botswana salt pans. Photo: peopletribe.netBotswana salt pans. Photo: peopletribe.net

African countries lose investments due to lack of data.

Most African countries have data gaps, but some have data deserts.

DW looked at 10 African countries whose citizens lack even basic information about their own country’s births, deaths and unemployment rates, not to mention government spending, taxation and economic performance.

Reliable data is expensive and unavailable in many African countries, DW reported.

“It can cost at least $1 per person to conduct a census. So if you are a country like Nigeria with around 160 million people it will cost $160 million,” said Anim van Wyk with South Africa-based fact-checking organization Africa Check.

Lack of reliable data means that marketers can’t make the most of opportunities across the continent, according to a survey of World Federation of Advertisers members, AdvertisingAge reported.

A lack of basic market data not only hinders attempts to generate insights, but also creates a barrier to investment, survey respondents said.

World Bank has devised a way to measure and compare countries’ data. The Statistical Capacity Indicator (SCI) provides a global comparison of how individual countries are doing in collecting, analyzing and disseminating data about their populations and economies.

The score takes into account the sources of the data, methods and frequency of data collection. A country can have a SCI from 0 and 100. A high figure means a country is good at acquiring data and using it constructively.

While some of the worst-performing African countries listed below can attribute poor data collection to recent or current civil war or political and social unrest, this isn’t always the case. Some of them are wealthy countries that choose to devote the funds and human resources necessary for serious data collection to other endeavors they value more.

Check out these data deserts: 10 African countries we know little about.

Sources: AdvertisingAge, DW, World Bank Statistical Capacity Indicator (SCI),

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