Measuring and evaluating progress on the Sustainable Development Goals in Africa became much easier as a group of regional UN entities launched the first online data portal that brings together statistical data harvested across all countries on the continent.
Some 17 regional UN entities, under the Africa Regional Collaborative Platform (RCP), on Tuesday, September 14, 2021, unveiled the “Africa UN Data for Development Platform“, a platform to serve as a one-stop-shop repository that captures high-quality data and evidence on the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs from all the African countries. It is said to be the first of its kind to raise the profile of statistical progress toward the African Union vision – Agenda 2063.
“With barely nine years left to achieve the SDGs, making use of common and harmonized data is essential to accelerate progress. The launch of this new platform marks a milestone in actions towards the Agenda 2030 and the African Union 2063 Agenda. Reliable and collective data will allow all actors to make the best possible evidence-based policy action to accelerate the SDGs, strengthen collaboration, avoid unnecessary duplication and make sure that we can address gaps, really leaving no one behind,” said Assistant Secretary-General Ahunna Eziakonwa, Director of the Regional Bureau for Africa at the UN Development Programme, who also serves as Vice-Chair of the Africa RCP, at the virtual launch event.
The new data portal looks into the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and breaks them down into their 169 targets and 231 indicators, allowing everyone to track progress at the granular level. It is open to all users, including policymakers, planners, programme managers, development partners, private sector organizations, civil society groups, academic institutions, researchers, students, media outlets and many others.
According to the statisticians at the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), among the 169 targets set out in the SDGs, only 30 percent of them are quantifiable. For the rest of the unquantifiable targets, the online platform goes ahead to propose target values by using a pragmatic and ambitious approach. It identifies the region’s outstanding countries and sets their average rate of change as the region’s target rate.
“Presenting comprehensive, practical data sets will especially help us, government civil servants, to monitor progress, make sound decisions, and evaluate outcomes and impacts. This data platform is a long-awaited online tool for us to carry out in-depth analyses and progress assessments at the target and indicator levels, and link them with our national development plans,” said Dr. Saulos Chilima, Vice President of Malawi.
The new data engine also gives users the ability to classify the statistics by various dimensions, such as the eight regional economic communities recognised by the African Union, least developed countries, landlocked developing nations, and oil-producing, mineral-rich states. Additionally, it repackages the data by key thematic issues. For example, users can categorise SDG indicators by agriculture, energy and health, allowing them to not only analyse the specific progress at the country level but also examine the convergence, similarities and differences among a variety of subregional blocs and topics.
“Africa is a continent with great potential and clear aspirations as articulated in the Africa Union’s Agenda 2063. The transformation requires quality, timely and disaggregated data to guide targeted investments and ensure that the desired returns in its human capital development, environmental sustainability, economic transformation and prosperity for all,” stated Oliver Chinganya, Director of the ECA Africa Centre for Statistics.
Building on the existing infrastructure developed by ECA, the Africa UN data portal consolidates statistics from platforms and technological tools available at UN entities. Without reinventing the wheel, the UN regional group, also known as Opportunity/Issue-based Coalition (OIBC) 1, came up with a new way of bringing data to users, strengthening the “whole-of-UN” approach to provide one common space where everyone can easily find critical evidence.
“The aim is to reduce the burden on countries in terms of responding to data needs and avoid repeated data requests from various organizations. This portal brings fragmented data from member states into one place, and this information can also be used by UN agencies and other partners,” said Dr. Bannet Ndyanabangi, Regional Director ad interim of UNFPA East and Southern Africa, and OIBC 1 co-convener.
The data portal is expected to be used in progress reports on the SDGs and other sustainable development documents. It can also be used to prepare speeches and presentations for senior leadership of governments and institutions as well as to stimulate policy conversations, for instance, for voluntary national reviews and other policy discussions around sustainable development agendas, particularly to facilitate deep analyses.
The portal, according to the promoters, can also be cited by media outlets, research institutions, and other organisations to conduct further studies.