Trending! Population Growth in Africa

A lot has been said and is still being said about the rate of population growth in Africa. In fact the most recent (2017), and much cited iteration of the UN population report  predicts that by 2050 global population will grow by around 2.2 billion people and more than half of that growth will come from Africa; where population will swell by an estimated 1.3 billion people. That's a lot of people! 

Now there are many that believe that this pace of population growth spells doom for the Continent's economic future; a prediction that is drawn from the commonly accepted notion that the "miracle" economic growth experienced in South-East Asia, was in pertinent part due to the successful caliberation of population growth. Now whether this notion holds true in the African context remains the subject of much heated debate in academic and policy circles, and a great many researchers have made it their business to prove the association between population growth and economic development.

We at BDA are fascinated by this topic and being the data lovers that we are, have decided to join the fray and provide a way for the rest of the world to follow these phenomena and draw their own conclusions. To that end we are mining and analyzing key demographic data which we will publish via an analytics dashboard that will allow anyone that is interested in this debate to see how Africa's population story has unfolded and is projected to unfold in the coming decades. We will not bore you with the details of our regressions and probabilistic projections but we will provide Github links to all code we generate.  For now, check out these two Tableau visualizations for a sense of how Fertility Decline, a key population growth parameter has evolved in Africa versus the rest of the world, and stay tuned for what we predict will be a riveting look at the future of African demography!

Africa's Data Revolution...?

There is nowhere in the world more data-challenged than sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

Over the last decade, several SSA countries have experienced significant development, and quite a few economics have successfully transitioned from low to middle-income status (e.g. Senegal, Ghana, Kenya). Others however, have not done as well. Nigeria for example, hailed as the largest economy in Africa less than two years ago, is currently experiencing the most severe recession in its recent history. The region is awash with activity, and challenges notwithstanding, sub-Saharan Africa is poised for the greatest wave of positive change it has seen in all of its history. Accurate indices of demography, development and prosperity have never been more important; not just as quantitative determinants of growth, but for estimations of poverty and inequality.  

From 1990 to 2009, only one sub-Saharan African nation had data on all 12 Millennium Development Goal (MDG) indicators, and in other instances where data was available it was often questionable and unreliable. In January of this year, The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) came into effect. Focusing on key areas including poverty alleviation, democratic governance and peacebuilding, climate change and disaster risk, and economic inequality, the SDGs are built to accelerate progress already achieved under the MDGs, and serve as a guide for national development strategy for the next 15 years, across 170 countries and territories. Laudable as the plan is, it begs the question of how progress towards the goals will be measured in SSA, especially considering the fact that statistical capacity in the region has not significantly improved since the MDGs. The figures below provide statistical capacity scores in SSA for 2013 and 2015 (roll over maps to see scores by country).

Viz by Big Data for Africa. Data Source; World Bank AGI Data Portal. 

Open data initiatives such as the African Development Bank’s Open Data for Africa platform and the World Bank’s Open Data Portal have created pathways towards easier access to a broad variety of statistical data for all 54 African nations. However, open data portals are not enough to mitigate the region’s data challenges, especially given the unavailability of the actual data necessary to populate these open data platforms.

In a recent initiative led by the Center for Global Development and the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC), an effort was made to explore the challenges surrounding data in sub-Saharan Africa. The results revealed that the greatest challenges evolve not out of a lack of technical capacity, but as a result of political economy and systemic challenges including:

  • A lack of independence among national statistics offices (NSOs)
  • Misaligned incentives between funders and producers of statistics
  • Dominance of donor priorities over national, and
  • Deliberate, consistent efforts to preclude public access to data.

The data challenge in sub-Saharan Africa is not just about providing portals and platforms and repositories for the old data that is available. It is actually more about generating new, relevant data that is not restricted by the requirements of donors and funding agencies, improving data collection practices, and enhancing the accessibility of stakeholders to reliable and timely data on Africa.

Meeting this data challenge will require innovations that extend far beyond traditional data collection methodologies. It will require stakeholders to harness the power of technology and data sources previously unavailable in the region.  It will require governments to fund more data collection efforts, and fund different TYPES of data collection efforts. It will require governments to coordinate with donors, civil society and private actors. It will require all stakeholders in Africa's data future to begin to experiment with new ways of mining, analyzing and disseminating data, and truly begin to invest in not just the idea, but the reality of a data revolution in Africa.

The BDA Survey Application is on its way!

The BDA Survey Application is on its way!

We are proud to announce that BDA has secured an investment to support the development of our mobile survey app to be completed by the end of Summer 2016. The development of the BDA survey app will be the first in a series of BDA Solutions that will allow for unprecedented interactive communication and engagement with the African population.