West Africa’s ICE focuses on demographic dynamics for sustainable development in the region
The 22nd Meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee of senior officials and Experts (ICE) for West Africa concluded in Liberia on 10 May 2019. It was held under the theme, Demographic dynamics for sustainable development in West Africa: challenges and policy measures.
Organised by the Sub-Regional Office for West Africa (SRO-WA) of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the Government of Liberia, this ICE session is expected to come up with solid recommendations on economic and social development issues facing the continent’s most populous region.
Delegates discussed recent regional and international developments likely to impact economic and social development in West African countries; identify major challenges and to propose policy guidelines to help accelerate sustainable development in the sub-region.
Liberia’s Finance and Development Planning Minister, Samuel D. Tweah Jr, lauded the ECA for its continuous support to Liberia and the sub-region, especially in pursuit of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals and Africa’s Agenda 2063.
“I hope that strong recommendations in terms of education, agriculture and finances will be made by the participants at this important meeting. These recommendations should also be available at the level of our parliaments so that they have an impact on national polices,” the Minister said.
He said such recommendations should not only be the preserve of the annual Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development but trickle down to lawmakers and others for maximum benefit.
For his part, Director of the ECA in West Africa, Bakary Dosso, said three reasons justify choosing the theme of this meeting.
“First, it is a strategic choice. Demographic Dynamics for Development is the new area of specialization of the ECA Sub regional Office for West Africa. Secondly, the West African region is at the forefront of issues related to population dynamics and development. Lastly, the current momentum. There is a worldwide agenda to identify and seize the windows of opportunity of demographic dividend in Africa,” he said.
Mr. Dosso said the region was in 2018 home to 377 million people or 30 percent of Africa’s population. He said the most populated region of the continent was growing at a pace of 2.7 percent per annum, adding this will double every 25 years.
“Out of an estimated population of 377 million in 2018, just over 200 million or 53.5 percent of the people live below the national poverty line demonstrating the magnitude of the challenges facing the region,” said the Director.
Accordingly, he said that countries in the sub-region need to reform their macroeconomic and financial frameworks; invest in human capital; tackle infrastructure deficits; and improve the business climate to positively and sustainably reverse trends.
Mr. Dosso said the success lies in the ability of the national leadership to execute on time, to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the different agendas to which it has committed for the transformation of their respective countries and continent.
He said institutional capacity for evaluation and monitoring of development agendas has been identified as one of the missing links in development processes in West Africa.
The Representative of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Liberia, Pa Lamin Beyai, said: “The challenges we face as a sub-region are immense. But the United Nations, working as one in each of your countries, is ready to support you to benefit from the demographic dividend. For that to happen, the progress made in regional integration needs to be sustained in the short, medium, and long terms to ensure that our youthful population is a true force for development, peace, and security.”
The Intergovernmental Committee of Experts meets annually with high-level decision-makers from member States to discuss economic and social performance and make relevant recommendations.
In this light, participants reviewed statutory reports prepared by the Secretariat. They also reviewed the reports on Implementing the SRO-WA Work Program in 2018 and prospects for 2019; Regional Profile of West Africa; and Progress in Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in West Africa.
This ICE session was preceded by an ad hoc expert group meeting from 6 to 7 May 2019, on the theme: National capacities and mechanisms in evaluating progress in the implementation of agendas 2030 and 2063: assessment, challenges and prospects in West Africa.
Delegates from the 15 West African States as well as senior representatives and experts from the ECOWAS, Union Economique et Monétaire Ouest Africaine (UEMOA), the Mano River Union (UFM), and other intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) of the Sub-Region attended the ICE. In addition to ECA experts, representatives of other UN agencies, partners, NGOs, development and research institutions were also in attendance.
National capacities and mechanisms for assessing progress in the Implementation of Agendas 2030 and 2063:
State of play, challenges and prospects in West Africa
The purpose of this study was to analyse the capacities and mechanisms of the fifteen (15) West African countries to assess progress in the implementation of the 2030 and 2063 agendas. The aim was to take stock of the capacities of the national statistical systems, the organisation of the monitoring and evaluation system for the 2030 and 2063 agendas, identify the major challenges and propose recommendations for improving the system.
At the end of the analysis, the following main messages deserve to be highlighted.
At the level of the National Statistical Systems:
Overall, the National Statistical Systems (NSS) in West Africa are relatively well organized with the NSIs as a central structure with a primary producer role. All countries also have a legal framework for statistical activity. NSS in all countries also have Statistical Master Plans, which are essential strategic planning tools for effective statistical activity. In addition, most master plans include a plan for strengthening statistical production and staff training that builds the capacity of statistical staff.
In terms of statistical data quality, West African countries have the most significant deficiencies in the regularity and accessibility of statistical data.
With regard to regularity in particular, on average, 52.3% of the main data collection operations do not respect the prescribed production deadlines. In some countries, the rate of non-regularity exceeds two thirds (2/3) of the main collection operations. For some collection operations, relatively long delays are noted, sometimes exceeding 100% of the prescribed deadlines.
Given the low level of regularity of major data collection operations in countries, there is a significant risk that a relatively large proportion of the SDG and Agenda 2063 indicators may not be regularly reported, which would compromise the timely and regular reporting. On average in the 10 countries analysed, more than half of the indicators are at risk of not being reported due to a lack of regularity.
In almost all countries, production structures have significant deficiencies in terms of professional statisticians. 8 out of 10 countries consider that they do not have sufficient statistical professionals to effectively meet the need for statistical production for the monitoring and evaluation of the SDGs, including Agenda 2063. On average, the number of statisticians per 100,000 inhabitants is 2.88 compared to a European average of about 15 statisticians per 100,000 inhabitants.
National statistical data production and dissemination structures have limited knowledge of new data collection, processing and dissemination techniques – data collection by tablet/smartphone (CAPI) and online data collection using web tools (CAWI). Of the 10 countries examined, 8 have unsatisfactory knowledge of online data collection using web tools.
The autonomy of countries in financing statistics is weak. Indeed, in almost all countries, most of the main data collection operations are financed mainly from external resources, giving the impression that statistics are not a priority in West African countries.
Generally, States’ commitments to finance statistics are not respected. This argument is supported by the low disbursement rates of NSO budgets, some of which are below 50% in some years.
Very few West African countries have statistical development funds, which contributes to increased instability and irregularity in the resources allocated to statistical financing.
Closing the statistical data gap to ensure that the 232 SDG indicators, including Agenda 2063, are properly reported will require relatively large amounts of funding ranging from 340 thousand to 280 million US dollars depending on the country.
At the level of the institutional monitoring and evaluation system:
After 4 and 6 years of implementation of the SDG and Agenda 2063 respectively, very few countries have formalized through official acts the monitoring and evaluation mechanism of the two Agendas.
In most countries, 90% of the countries surveyed believe that the current structures that produce the SDG report are the most appropriate. The situation is more mixed with Agenda 2063. Indeed, only 60% of the countries consider the choice of the structure in charge of monitoring-evaluation of this reference framework to be appropriate.
The frequency of reporting differs from one Development Agenda to another but also from one country to another; this also complicates the production of an integrated and coherent report at the country and regional levels, in accordance with the requirements of the AU/UN Development Framework.
The schedules of data-producing structures, in particular the INS, and those responsible for producing SDG and Agenda 2063 reports are poorly synchronized; this is not likely to promote up-to-date data to meet the need for report production.