File photo shows scenes during the Third International Conference on Finance for Development at the United Nations Economic Commission For Africa (UNECA) conference center in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia. (Xinhua/Michael Tewelde)
The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa has launched Africa's first-of-its-kind continental tool to track price variations in African countries, regional economic communities, and at the continental level.
ADDIS ABABA, Aug. 14 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) on Thursday announced the launch of Africa's first-of-its-kind continental tool that offers a unique view of price variations in African countries, regional economic communities and at the continental level.
According to the ECA, the newly introduced initiative, among other things, envisaged bringing the prices and exchange rates of "all African countries into one platform that's readily accessible to citizens, decision-makers, and other stakeholders."
"The platform will involve monthly, quarterly and annual analyses of inflation," it said.
The ECA also stressed that the virtual launch of the initiative comes at a time when governments are keen to understand the impact of COVID-19 on citizens' capacity to purchase necessities as countries face lockdown measures.
The virtual launch was also attended by high-level African leaders and ministers of finance and economic development and representatives of national statistics offices from across Africa who acknowledged their role as key stakeholders in the initiative and pledged to contribute the required data.
Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the ECA, said upon the launch of the new initiative that "lack of price data to enable us monitor, analyze and manage economies through informed policy decisions has often led to civil unrests, because when prices of things like food, oil, and energy go up, people may "take to the streets."
The ECA chief also noted the role of national statistics offices and national revenue authorities in ensuring that this platform has timely, accurate, and up-to-date data.
The launch was chaired by Ghana's Vice President, Mahamudu Bawumia, who applauded the ECA for the initiative, stating that "this one-stop-shop for finding data" will go a long way to "increase ECA's relevance in Africa."
"We need data on price movements to gauge how changes in consumer prices alone may be affecting the trends in income distribution, poverty levels, and inequalities, including especially among those who live on retirement incomes," said Bawumia.
Bawumia, who urged African governments to invest in ICT infrastructure and digital data collection tools, also called on African heads of national statistical offices to "work with the ECA in transforming our continental statistical systems."
Cameroon's Minister of Economy, Planning and Regional Development, Alamine Ousmane Mey, on his part also stressed that "we need to strengthen the relationships between national information and statistics institutions and the ECA because without data and without information, we cannot evaluate and monitor public policy."
"We are talking about compiling data, which means integrating Africa. I see a bright future for this initiative," said Mey.
South Africa's Minister of Finance, Tito Titus Mboweni, also highlighted the fact that "data helps political leadership understand the difference between what they might wish to have and what the reality on the ground is."
"As we move towards actualizing the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement, we need timely and reliable data on prices and movements of goods and services to enable us to know if we're having macroeconomic convergence or divergence." he said. ■