In Praise of Data I

Jahelle Bonne at the 2019 Ibrahim Governance Weekend © Mo Ibrahim Foundation

Jahelle Bonne at the 2019 Ibrahim Governance Weekend © Mo Ibrahim Foundation

I am writing this blog while the Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s flagship Ibrahim Governance Weekend is taking place in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

This annual event convenes prominent African political and business leaders plus representatives from civil society and institutions, as well as Africa’s major international partners, to debate issues of critical importance to the continent. The focus for 2019 is youth, mobility and African migration.

Mo’s commitment to governance for Africa inspired me when I founded, on a smaller scale, the Mediterranean Growth Initiative. At the heart of both of our efforts lies the belief that data provides the crucial accountability information that underpins good governance.

Political and policy decisions impact on people’s lives, and so policy, political and business leaders must be held accountable for their decisions, good and bad.

Data helps make this possible: it provides facts, enables transparency and creates a premise on which to deliberate, assess and decide on critical issues such as economic inclusion for women, youth employment, trade alliances and the necessary infrastructure for domestic and regional connectivity and mobility.

Data analysis also offers the ability to benchmark performance across countries – good and bad practices. This affects how well a country manages its growth potential, either by attracting investment (investors head for countries with predictable risk indicators) or through organic growth (where the fundamentals for growth are premised on the good governance of institutions, resources and people).

In this respect, I am also inspired by how Pinelopi Goldberg, the World Bank’s Chief Economist, addresses development, global trade and regional value chains through new approaches to data analysis. Specifically, I recommend an upcoming report on global value chains.

If we can change the political narrative to include more data, if we can ensure policymaking includes performance benchmarking and forecasting, we may have more informed and enlightened public debates, accountability in politics and collaborative cross-border trade, leading to peace and stability.