Building capacity to help Africa trade better

Economic benefits of open data in Africa


Economic benefits of open data in Africa

Economic benefits of open data in Africa

Executive summary

Open Data is data that can be freely used, reused, and redistributed by anyone. At least 46 governments worldwide, including those of at least 14 of the 54 countries in Africa, are working on open data initiatives to release some of the data they collect and generate. The primary objectives of open government data are economic growth, increased transparency and accountability, improved public services, and efficiency in government.

Estimates of the global potential economic benefit of open data range as high as US$ 3-5 trillion, which represents about 4 percent of world GDP, although the international evidence to support such figures is not yet systematic. More modest estimates have driven policy-makers in Europe, the US, and elsewhere to initiate an open data approach. This makes good economic sense, not least because the costs of releasing data that the government already collects are far outweighed by even the most conservative estimates of potential benefits.

Open data programs are at a nascent stage in Africa, with most attention being focused on the objective of boosting transparency and accountability. As a consequence, the potential economic benefit to Africa has been largely overlooked, and this paper seeks to address this issue. Based on plausible and cautious assumptions, and using a variety of estimated methods, the economic potential of open data to Africa could equate to roughly 1-2 percent of the region’s GDP. There are particular opportunities to be gained for the Africa region in the agriculture sector, in public procurement, and in geospatial data, and there is far greater upside potential than downside risk.

Achieving such benefits not only requires the right datasets to be available, it also calls for innovators and entrepreneurs to convert these datasets into datadriven services, and for the installation of appropriate infrastructure to deliver those services. So far only a small amount of open data has been released in Africa; and in many countries economically important datasets, such as geospatial data, are non-existent or of poor quality. Nevertheless, in a number of African countries innovators are already demonstrating their ability to deliver data-driven services, including some that could increase small farmers’ incomes by 20 percent or more. Indeed, in the region there exists a groundswell of skills and innovative ideas capable of converting open data into economic growth.

This report makes a number of recommendations to help Africa realize the economic potential of open data. Specifically, it calls for: greater knowledge sharing; the need to focus on creating and releasing key datasets; taking strategic steps to invest in “African Information Infrastructure” alongside physical infrastructures; removing the barriers that governments encounter in implementing open data initiatives; and facilitating innovation and data-driven services geared to the needs of the continent.

The African Development Bank is already a leader in promoting and facilitating open data in Africa, especially through its Africa Information Highway (AIH) initiative. Indeed, the AIH was selected in 2015 by PARIS21 as one of the most innovative initiatives globally to enable and inform the Data Revolution. Similarly, in endorsing the enhancement of the General Data Dissemination System (e-GDDS), which forms part of the IMF’s Data Standards Initiative, the IMF Board decided that the AIH’s Open Data Platform (ODP) would be used as the core data management and dissemination platform for African countries – a model to be emulated in all IMF developing member countries across the globe. This report illustrates how the Bank can build on this success and spearhead the drive to maximize economic benefits for Africa from open data and the implementation of the recent “Africa Data Consensus.”

This study is a product of the Statistics Department of the African Development Bank Group. It is based on evidence as of mid-2015, although there have been some developments since then


Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Tel +27 21 880 2010