African leaders take hold of the Data Revolution

Council of Ministers’ resolution sets out a bold vision for improving data across the continent

African ministers of finance, planning and economic development have adopted a bold vision for revolutionising the use of data across the African continent. The draft resolution, which was adopted on 30 March and published late on Wednesday by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the African Union (AU), is a groundbreaking step towards implementing a progressive framework to improve data in Africa.

The resolution, which forms part of the Report of Committee of Experts, sets out a series of commitments that would transform the way data is used to improve decision making. Key among the proposed action points for Africa’s Data Revolution are the development of effective civil registration systems and the building of an open and diverse data ‘ecosystem’ with official statistics at its centre in order to create a practical road map for inclusive data generation and use. The Council of Ministers:

“Resolves to lead the African data revolution, bringing together diverse data communities and using a wide range of data sources, tools and innovative technologies, with a view to providing timely and disaggregated data for decision-making, service delivery, citizen engagement and information to drive Africa’s social, economic and structural transformation;

“Undertakes to ensure that the African data revolution is built on the principle of openness across the data value chain and on vibrant data ecosystems driven by national priorities and anchored in national statistics systems that are inclusive of all data communities and stakeholders;”

“Commits itself to providing adequate funds for the data revolution and data communities to ensure their sustainability;”

The publishing of the resolution comes in the week following the 8th Joint Annual AUC-ECA Conference of Ministers of Finance, Planning, and Economic Development, which took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. During the Conference of Ministers, Development Initiatives partnered with UNECA to convene a diverse range of research organisations, civil society organisations and technology pioneers to discuss what a data revolution would mean in Africa. The discussions resulted in the development of the Africa Data Consensus, which was also adopted by country ministers.

Reacting to the resolution Development Initiatives’ African Region Director, Charles Lwanga-Ntale, said:

“To have an impact on poverty reduction and development outcomes, data must drive decision making, not merely support the monitoring of progress. This necessitates ownership of the Data Revolution at a national level and the disaggregation of data down to the very local level where decisions are taken that affect the livelihoods of people. The work of the Council of Ministers recognises this and sets out a bold agenda that could transform the continent. We look forward to playing our part in helping to deliver this ambitious agenda.”


Development Initiatives was an official partner of the high-level conference Data Revolution in Africa (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 2015), alongside PARIS21Statistics South Africa and the Web Foundation. UNECA, AU, the African Development Bank and the United Nations Development Programme were co-organisers of the meeting.