Harnessing the Power of Development Data: A Catalyst for Development in African Nations

We live in an ever evolving world, with new trends shaping our everyday lives. Currently, the word circulating globally is Artificial Intelligence(AI), at the core of A.I is data. In the world of global development, data has been a crucial driver for progress. Across the African continent, nations are appreciating the enormous potential data in fostering development.

“Data and statistics are the lifeblood of development planning. Reliable statistics and analysis boost effective implementation of development programms to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

Oliver Chinganya, Director of ECA’s African Centre for Statistics.

From healthcare to agriculture, transportation to education, data is emerging as a crucial asset that can provide African governments, companies, and development organizations with the insights needed to make smarter decisions and policies.

What is Development Data?

The world bank defines development data as data produced by country systems, international organizations or third parties on countries’ socioeconomic and environmental issues. Development data comes in various forms such as: Economic data, Census and Survey Data, Big data, Administrative data and Open data.

Sectors of development that can be revolutionized with adoption of data.

There are many sectors of development, if not all, that can be transformed through the expert analysis, interpretation and application of development data. But for this article I will look at the Agriculture and the Health sector.

“Africa has the potential to be the breadbasket of the world”, we’ve heard this statement so many times, but the facts could not be further from the truth, The Ukraine-Russia conflict exposed the vulnerable food system present in Africa. With a growing population, it is imperative for Africa to produce more food.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Agriculture in Africa remains to be one of the least digitized sector. However, data driven agronomy has the potential to transform the continents agricultural fortunes. Through data, farmers can be able to make smart crop management decisions. Soil data can be collected and analyzed for variables such as: nutrients, temperature and soil health enabling the farmer to know the right fertilizer to apply and how to efficiently irrigate their farms. Data on weather forecasting can be crucial in mitigating the risk of droughts and destructive pests. Aside from farming, data can also be used to offer financial solutions to African farmers

Africa has seen startups such as Farmline in Ghana, Sunculture and Ujuzi Kilimo in Kenya and Farmcrowdy in Nigeria, lead the frontier in reducing the gap between technology and farming.


Being one of the largest and one of the most populous continents in the world, it goes without saying that Africa needs a strong healthcare system but that is not the case.

The importance of data in healthcare cannot be overstated. Through data, African nations cane be able to track diseases in regions and swiftly eradicate them, real time data can be used to allocate and distribute health resources and health workers increasing access to quality health services, through data , medicine stock levels in government hospitals and clinics can be adequately and efficiently monitored. Adequate health data is key in information accuracy and timely decision making in governments

Photo by Francisco Venâncio on Unsplash

In Malawi the, The Malawian Ministry of Health (MoH) alongside other partners, used Mobile Network Operator (MNO) data analytics alongside other datasets such as satellite imagery and census data to identify where 900 new health post will be optimally placed enabling more than 95% of Malawians to live within a walking distance of a health facility.

For more examples on how development data has been utilized across the African continent, I would suggest you check out the amazing uses cases in the data to policy navigator https://www.datatopolicy.org/use-cases .


Lydia Rollinson authored an insightful article titled ““Data has a PR problem. Here’s how good stories can change that.”” I agree with the statement, that data in Africa has an image problem, especially with how it is disruptive. However, as shown, data in Africa is not just about replacing jobs but rather fostering development. With the right backing, Africa has the potential to utilize data to propel innovation in various sectors of development

With that said, there is need for more development data within Africa, and a key way is through collaboration between governments and international organizations within Africa. With the current data being underutilized, capacity is needed to expertly analyze and interpret the available development data.

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