The chief economist for the World Bank's Africa region, Shanta Devarajan, delivered a devastating assessment of the capacity of African states to measure development in his 2013 article "Africa's Statistical Tragedy". Is there a "statistical tragedy" unfolding in Africa now? If so, it becomes important to examine the roots of the problem as far as the provision of statistics in poor economies is concerned. This book, on measuring African development in the past and in the present, draws on the historical experience of colonial French West Africa, Ghana, Sudan, Mauritania and Tanzania and the more contemporary experiences of Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The authors each reflect on the changing ways statistics represent African economies and how they are used to govern them.
This book was published as a special issue of the Canadian Journal of Development Studies.
Morten Jerven is associate professor at Simon Fraser University. He is an economic historian, publishing widely on patterns of African economic development including a recent book, Poor Numbers: How We Are Misled by African Development Statistics and What to Do About It.
1. Measuring African development: past and present. Introduction to the Special Issue 2. An uneven statistical topography: the political economy of household budget surveys in late colonial Ghana, 1951-1957 3. Des revenus nationaux pour l'Afrique? La mesure du developpement en Afrique occidentale francaise dans les annes 1950 4. Measuring the Sudanese economy: a focus on national growth rates and regional inequality, 1959-1964 5. The bureaucratic performance of development in colonial and post-colonial Tanzania 6. Economic calculations, instability and (in)formalisation of the state in Mauritania, 2003-2011 7. Reliable, challenging or misleading? A qualitative account of the most recent national surveys and country statistics in the DRC 8. The use, abuse and omerta on the "noise" in the data: African democratisation, development and growth 9. Measuring development progress in Africa: the denominator problem 10. Monitoring performance or performing monitoring? Exploring the power and political dynamics underlying monitoring the MDG for rural water in Ethiopia 11. How to do (and how not to do) fieldwork on Fair Trade and rural poverty 12. Collecting high frequency panel data in Africa using mobile phone interviews