Namibia’s statistical capacity poor

Statistics expert professor Ben Kiregyera has said despite Namibia possessing a modern and comprehensive Statistics Act, the overall national statistical capacity still ranks poorly.

He was speaking at the official launch of the development of the National Strategy for Development of Statistics (NSDS) which has been put in motion by the national statistics agency (NSA) in the capital.

“Namibia is not doing well regarding its statistical capacity and has gone below 50 points in 2015. You need to be above this. It is below the sub-Saharan average,” he said in his in-depth presentation of the importance of developing an NSDS.

He has, however, lauded Namibia for taking on the herculean task of developing its own NSDS ahead of significant economies like Egypt, South Africa and Nigeria which currently have none.

The NSDS covers all the statistics of a country and its making widely integrates stakeholders and take several months to design.

It further enables countries to meet their regional and international commitments like Agendas 2030 and 2063 as well as the Sustainable Development Goals, (SDGs) concerning available statistical data.

“In developing the NSDS stakeholders are not consulted, they are engaged. NSDS completely changes the statistical landscape of the country, and this is a cure for the underperformance of national statistical capacity,” he elaborated.

The professor said while at one time Namibia used South Africa’s Statistics Act which the latter had then abandoned, it has gone ahead of South Africa by coming up with a very modern and progressive Act from which the South Africans are now copying.

The Act provides for the development of the National Statistics System and provides for its components and objectives; to establish the Namibia Statistics Agency and the Board of the Namibia Statistics Agency and provide for their powers and functions.

He has nevertheless urged that the Act is re-looked at and allow for the creation of a coordinated statistical system.

“All ministries and government agencies should have a statistics division. It must be at the core of activities of a functional organisation, ministry or agency. This is not in the Act,” he said. 

Economic planning minister and director of the NPC Tom Alweendo, however, did not dwell much on the country’s statistical capacity but he disputed the figure that places Namibia below the said sub-Saharan average.

“That statistics capacity index, I think I want to take you on that one at some point. But those blips going up and down cannot be good statistics, there is something wrong with that figure,” he said in his response to the professor.

“But as it was said, it’s all about having good statistics. If you don’t have data, if you don’t have information as to where you need to plan, where you need to build a school, where you need to build a hospital you end up building schools and hospitals everywhere else depending on who says you want a hospital,” he added.

Although Namibia takes the production of comprehensive, quality and accessible statistics seriously to promote the development agenda, Alweendo said budget constraints often hinder the process.

He also said there is a lingering challenge of “big data management or the consolidation or compilation of data across multiple sources.”

“Now for the implementation of our national development plan we need to have access to statistical data to respond to the pressing matters proactively,” he said.

PARIS21 Regional coordinator for Africa Rafik Mahjoubi said statistical systems should be able to respond in a precise, effective and sustainable manner to the challenges in society and economies of developing countries and to the new information requirements they generate. 

“This needs a coordinated national effort aimed at improving the mechanisms and processes needed to produce relevant statistics. This effort is embodied in the strategic planning process known as the NSDS,” he said.