ECA launches Price Watch Centre for Africa

ECA Executive  Secretary, Vera  Songwe (Photo: ECA  SRO/WA)
ECA Executive Secretary, Vera Songwe (Photo: ECA SRO/WA)
Photo Credit: (Photo: ECA SRO/WA)

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has launched a first-of-its-kind continental tool that offers a unique view of price variations in African countries, regional economic communities and at continental level. 

The exercise was officially launched in the Ethiopian Capital, Addis Ababa, on 11th, August, 2020.

During the virtual launch, ECA Executive Secretary, Vera Songwe, noted that the role of national statistics offices and national revenue authorities in ensuring that the platform has timely, accurate & up-to-date data will be crucial.

She cautioned that the “lack of price data to enable people monitor, analyse and manage economies through informed policy decisions has often led to civil unrests.

According to her, when prices of things like food, oil, and energy go up, “people take to the streets.”

The initiative intends, therefore, to bring 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.

The launch was chaired by Ghana’s Vice President, Mahamudu Bawumia, who applauded ECA for the initiative, stating “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 Mr. Bawumia.

He pointed out that “as we open the doors to continental free trade, price level data will enable across-country comparisons and understanding of regional markets and the competitiveness of producers across Africa.”

The vice president urged African governments to invest in ICT infrastructure and digital data collection tools. He called on heads of national statistical offices to “work with the ECA in transforming our continental statistical systems.”

In the same vein, Cameroon’s Minister of Economy, Planning and Regional Development - Alamine Ousmane Mey - said “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 Mr Mey.

In his remarks, South Africa’s Minster of Finance, Tito Titus Mboweni, highlighted the fact that “Data helps political leadership understand the difference between what they might wish to have and what the reality on the gourds is.”

He added that “as we move towards actualising the African Continental Free Trade Area, we need timely and reliable data on prices and movements of goods and services to enable us know if we’re having macroeconomic convergence or divergence” 

The virtual launch was also attending by several other 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

Observers believe that the initiative comes at a time when governments are keen to understanding the impact of COVID-19 on citizens’ capacity to purchase necessities as countries face lockdown measures.