On January 20th, 2023, The African Union Institute for Statistics(STATAFRIC) held its first webinar in a series aimed at updating the 2008 System of National Accounts (SNA) in line with the United Nations' call for new measures to complement GDP. The webinar, which was attended by dozens of National Accounts Experts, focused on "Well-being, inclusion, and sustainability".
The SNA provides the overarching framework for the measurement of macroeconomic activity via a set of interlinked coherent accounts. However, it is widely recognized that official statistics need to better inform on issues of well-being and sustainability. The webinar discussed how to provide clearer links between material well-being, distributional measures, and broader issues of well-being and sustainability. To achieve this, guidance was developed to develop a broader accounting framework by combining the current framework with statistics on unpaid household activities, environmental-economic accounts, health, and education. Additionally, appropriate terminology and branding were developed to facilitate the integration of measures of well-being and sustainability with the core accounts and cooperation between those developing and preparing accounts in different fields to ensure optimal use of resources.
The webinar also discussed principles for determining which domains to be included in the SNA research agenda. These include continuing the SNA's focus on the economy's contribution to well-being, ensuring a household focus to inform outcomes for citizens, and linking to externalities to important issues even if they aren’t included in the boundary.
The Network of the Economic Statisticians and the five Regional Commissions of the United Nations Secretariat are organizing a series of user consultations with the statistical and policy community to improve understanding of the priorities of national statistical offices and their statistical systems. These consultations build on the outcomes of the United Nations Network of Economic Statisticians' Beyond GDP and priorities in measuring well-being, inclusion, and sustainability. The webinar provided an opportunity for information sharing and networking on regional statistical program priorities and initiatives and the findings of the Network’s Beyond GDP Sprint to improve economic, socio-demographic, and environment statistics, indicators, and accounts for the multidimensional measurement of well-being, cohesion, and sustainability.
In September 2021, the United Nations Secretary-General called for new measures to complement GDP, so that people can fully understand the impacts of business activities and how we can and must do better to support people and our planet. The network is considering two types of response to the challenges and limitations outlined above: on the one hand, supporting the improvements to the measurement of GDP and the update of the System of National Accounts 2008, and on the other hand, exploring new measures to complement GDP.
Overall, the first webinar in STATAFRIC's series provided valuable insights and guidance on how to better measure well-being, inclusion, and sustainability within the framework of the SNA. The upcoming user consultations will further inform and improve the understanding of these important issues among national statistical offices and the statistical and policy community.
In the closing, it has been recommended that STATAFRIC in collaboration with UNECA, AfDB and RECs should support AU Member States to more actively participate in the revision of 2008 System of National Account Process and also prepare Common African Position in some Guidance Notes. The next two webinars will be focus on digitalization and Informal Economy.