What is the African Charter on Statistics?

The African Charter on Statistics is a legal instrument. Its purpose is to regulate statistical activities in the continent and serve as an advocacy tool for the development of statistics in Africa. It was adopted by the Heads of State and Government of the African Union in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) on 3 February 2009, following a participatory process in which all members of the African statistical system, African political authorities and development partners took part.

Why an African Charter on Statistics?

By adopting the Constitutive Act of the African Union in Lome (Togo) on 11 July 2000, the leaders of African countries sought to accelerate the process of continental political and economic integration to ensure Africa will be able to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century and hold its rightful place on the global stage. With respect to economic integration that is to lead to the creation of an African Economic Community with an African single currency, in compliance with the treaty adopted in Abuja (Nigeria) in 1991, the steering and monitoring of its implementation and the continuous evaluation of its results require harmonised and reliable statistical data that are produced and disseminated in a timely manner. Such statistics are sorely lacking despite the progress achieved in the last few years. The African Charter on Statistics consists in a strategic guidance framework that is to pave the way for the emergence of such African statistics

What are the objectives of the African Charter on Statistics ?
  1. Serve as policy framework and advocacy tool for the development of statistics in Africa;

  2. Ensure improved quality and comparability of the statistics;

  3. Strengthen the coordination of statistical activities and facilitate the harmonization of development partners' interventions in order to avoid duplications in the implementation of statistical programmes;

  4. Promote compliance with the fundamental principles of public statistics in Africa and a culture of evidence-based policymaking;

  5. Build up the institutional capacity of African statistical authorities by ensuring their autonomy in operations, while paying attention to adequacy of human, material and financial resources.

What is the content of the African Charter on Statistics?

The African Charter on Statistics defines the principles governing the activity of the institutions in charge of collecting , producing , disseminating and analyzing public statistics as well as the ethical and professional rules of conduct of African statisticians. It also defines the commitments of States Parties that have to accept the principles set out in the Charter to reinforce their policies and their national statistics systems, as well as to commit themselves to adopt appropriate measures, especially legislative, regulatory and administrative, necessary to ensure that their laws and regulations are in conformity with the Charter.

The African Charter on Statistics coordinates the functioning of the African Statistical System, defined as the partnership composed of national statistical systems (data providers, producers and users, statistics research and training institutes and statistics coordination bodies), statistics units of Regional Economic Communities, regional statistics organizations, regional training centers, statistics units of continental organizations and coordination bodies at continental level

Drawing inspiration from the fundamental principles of official statistics adopted by the United Nations Statistical Commission in April 1994, the Charter aims at promoting six (6) principles namely:

Principle 1: Professional Independence

Professional Independence means Statistics authorities operate without any due influence from interest groups to ensure credible statistics

Sub-principle 1.1 Scientific independence

Statistics authorities must be able to carry out their activities according to the principle of scientific independence, particularly vis-à-vis the political authorities or any interest group; this means that the methods, concepts and nomenclatures used in statistical operation shall be selected only by the statistics authorities without any interference whatsoever and in accordance with the rules of ethics and good practice

Sub-principle 1.2 Impartiality

Statistics authorities shall produce, analyze, disseminate, and comment on African statistics in line with the principle of scientific independence, and in an objective, professional and transparent manner

Sub-principle 1.3 Responsibility

Statistics authorities and African statisticians shall employ unambiguous and relevant methods in the collection, processing, analysis and presentation of statistical data. Statistics authorities shall also have the right and duty to make observations on erroneous interpretation and improper use of the statistical information that they disseminate

Sub-principle 1.4 Transparency

To facilitate proper interpretation of data, statistics authorities shall provide information on their sources, methods and procedures that have been used in line with scientific standards. The domestic law governing operation of the statistical systems must be made available to the public

Principle 2: Quality

Quality in Statistics means “fitness for purpose” to ensure usability of statistics

Sub-principle 2.1 Relevance

African statistics shall meet the needs of users

Sub-principle 2.2 Sustainability

African statistics shall be conserved in as detailed as possible a form to ensure their use by future generations, while preserving the principles of confidentiality and protection of respondents

Sub-principle 2.3 Data Sources

Data used for statistical purposes may be collected from diverse sources such as censuses, statistics surveys and/or administrative records. The statistics organisations shall choose their sources in consideration of the quality of data offered by such sources and their topicality, particularly the costs incurred by the respondents and sponsors. The use by statistics authorities of administrative records for statistical purposes shall be guaranteed by domestic law, provided that confidentiality is preserved

Sub-principle 2.4 Accuracy and Reliability

African statistics shall be an accurate and reliable reflection of the reality

Sub-principle 2.5 Continuity

Statistics authorities shall ensure continuity and comparability of statistical information over time

Sub-principle 2.6 Coherence and Comparability

African statistics shall be internally coherent over time and allow for comparison between regions and countries. To this end, these statistics shall make combined use of related data derived from different sources. It shall employ internationally recognized and accepted concepts, classifications, terminologies and methods

Sub-principle 2.7 Timeliness

African statistics shall be disseminated in good time and, as far as possible, according to pre-determined calendar

Sub-principle 2.8 Topicality

African statistics shall reflect current and topical events and trends

Sub-principle 2.9 Specificities

Statistical data production and analytical methods shall take into account African peculiarities

Sub-principle 2.10 Awareness building

State Parties shall sensitize the public, particularly statistical data providers, on the importance of statistics

Sub-principle 2.11 Statistical process

Appropriate statistical procedures covering the entire statistical value chain must be implemented beginning with the need for data collection from either a survey or a register and ending with a review of the statistical

Principle 3: Mandate to collect data and resources

Mandate for data collection means the legal responsibility to collect data for statistical purposes. Resources means adequate, predictable and sustainable funding to be provided by National Governments

Sub-principle 3.1 Mandate

Statistics authorities shall be endowed with a clear legal mandate empowering them to collect data for production of African statistics. At the request of statistics authorities, public administrations, business establishments, households and the general public may be compelled by domestic law to allow access to the data in their possession or provide data for the purpose of compilation of African statistics

Sub-principle 3.2 Resource adequacy

As far as possible, the resources available to statistics authorities shall be adequate and stable to enable them to meet statistics needs at national, regional and continental levels. Governments of State Parties shall have the primary responsibility to provide such resources

 Sub-principle 3.3 Cost effectiveness

Statistics authorities shall use the resources so provided effectively and efficiently. This presupposes, in particular, that operations shall as far as possible, be programmed in an optimal manner. Every effort shall be made to achieve improved production and use of the statistics derived from administrative records, to reduce the costs incurred by respondents and, as far as possible, avoid expensive direct statistical surveys

Principle 4: Dissemination

Dissemination means statistics are accessible, clear and usable without constraint

Sub-principle 4.1 Accessibility

African statistics shall not be made inaccessible in any way whatsoever. This concomitant right of access for all users without restriction shall be guaranteed by domestic law. Micro-data may be made available to users on condition that the pertinent laws and procedures are respected and confidentiality is maintained

Sub-principle 4.2 Dialogue with users

Mechanisms for consultation with all African statistics users without discrimination shall be put in place with a view to ensuring that the statistical information offered are commensurate with their needs

Sub-principle 4.3 Clarity and understanding

Statistics shall be presented in a clear and comprehensible form. They shall be disseminated in a practical and appropriate manner, be available and accessible to all and accompanied by the requisite metadata and analytical commentaries

Sub-principle 4.4 Simultaneity

African Statistics shall be disseminated in a manner that ensures that all users are able to use them simultaneously. Where certain authorities receive advance information under embargo, to allow them time to respond to possible questions, public announcement shall be made indicating the nature of such information, the identity of the recipients and the set timeframe before its public dissemination

Sub-principle 4.5 Correction

Statistics authorities shall correct publications containing significant errors using standard statistical practices or, for very serious cases, suspend dissemination of such statistics. In that event, the users shall be informed in clear terms of the reasons for such corrections or suspension Sub-principle

Principle 5: Protection of individual data, information sources and respondants

Protection of individual data, information sources and respondents means privacy and confidentiality are guaranteed

Sub-principle 5.1 Confidentiality

National statistics authorities, African statisticians and all those operating in the field of statistics in Africa shall absolutely guarantee the protection of the private life and business secrets of data providers (households, companies, public institutions and other respondents), the confidentiality of the information so provided and the use of such information for strictly statistical purposes

Sub-principle 5.2 Giving assurances to data providers

Persons or entities interviewed during statistical surveys shall be informed of the objective of such interviews and of the measures put in place to protect the data provided

Sub-principle 5.3 Objective

Data concerning individuals or entities collected for statistical purposes shall in no circumstance be used for judicial proceedings or punitive measures or for the purpose of taking administrative decisions against such individuals or entities

Sub-principle 5.4 Rationality

Statistics authorities shall not embark upon statistical surveys except where pertinent information is unavailable from administrative records or the quality of such information is inadequate in relation to the quality requirements of statistical information

 Principle 6: Coordination and cooperation

Coordination and Cooperation means Statistics authorities work together and share expertise to ensure synergy, unicity, quality and comparability of statistics in the national and African statistics systems

 Sub-principle 6.1 Coordination

Coordination and collaboration amongst statistics authorities in a given country are essential in ensuring unicity, quality and harmonious statistical information Similarly, coordination and dialogue amongst all Members of the African Statistical System are vital for harmonization, production and use of African statistics

Sub-principle 6.2 Cooperation

Bilateral and multilateral statistics cooperation shall be encouraged with a view to upgrading African statistics production systems

What are the advantages offered by the African Charter on Statistics?

The African Charter on Statistics does not consist solely in obligations for the States Parties. Its ratification and implementation will enable to meet its objectives and in particular will:

  • Ensure improved quality and comparability of the statistics required to monitor national policies and economic and social integration process in Africa. Better data quality, comparability, as well as continuity and timeliness of dissemination will help Member States to elaborate relevant national policies, but also to better play their role in regional, continental and international exchanges as the harmonisation of African statistics needs to be compatible with international norms. They will enable the Regional Economic Communities which are the pillars of African integration to reach their objectives and better measure their achievements. They will also enable governments to better inform their citizens, parliamentarians to better monitor their Government action and citizens to better assess the achievements of national policies and play a proactive role in promoting and consolidating democracy and good governance;

  • Promote a culture of evidence-based policy formulation as statistical information will be produced in a more regular way while it will be more relevant, accessible and comprehensible;

  • Provide an efficient advocacy tool to increase resources and support needed to develop statistical activities;

  • Provide African statistical organisations and statisticians with an adequate legal framework as well as ethical and professional rules of conduct.

How is the African Charter on Statistics different from previous African initiatives in the field?

Unlike other African initiatives in the field of statistics that set out recommendations adopted at a ministerial level, the African Charter on Statistics is a binding legal instrument, as it is an international treaty adopted by the Heads of State and Government and is subject to ratification by the Member States of the African Union. By ratifying the Charter, States parties pledge to take appropriate measures required to ensure compliance with it, even if this entails modifying their national legislation. By making this choice, African leaders have made a far-reaching move since they are putting the development of African statistics at the centre of the continent’s political agenda.

When will the African Charter on Statistics enter in force?

Adopted by the Heads of State and Government of the African Union Commission (AUC) in Addis Ababa on February 4, 2009 . The African Charter of Statistics entered in force on February 8, 2015

Status of signature and ratification

See the update version of the document on the ratification of African Charter on Statistics treaties.au.int

Implications after ratification

The ratification of the African Charter on Statistics, which provides a legal framework for production of quality statistics, would allow countries to:

  • Have reliable information to better inform and guide policy makers, politicians, governments, the private sector, bilateral and multilateral donors, etc. for efficient and optimal decisions

  • Have the necessary tools for better monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes and to develop good planning

  • Anticipate and prepare for future challenges

  • Proper and efficient use of national resources

  • Have a strategic policy framework to enable the emergence of quality statistics and better monitor the implementation of the Agenda 2030 and Agenda 2063

  • Have a code of conduct, professional code of ethics and good practices for the statistician profession