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Poor Numbers: How We Are Misled by African Development Statistics

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  131 ratings  ·  13 reviews
One of the most urgent challenges in African economic development is to devise a strategy for improving statistical capacity. Reliable statistics, including estimates of economic growth rates and per-capita income, are basic to the operation of governments in developing countries and vital to nongovernmental organizations and other entities that provide financial aid to th ...more
Hardcover, 176 pages
Published April 2nd 2013 by Cornell University Press (first published February 1st 2013)
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Dylan Groves
Jan 28, 2014 rated it liked it
really interesting topic, not-so-great execution. value of book vs article summary is very small.

three takeaways:

1 - african growth statistics stink. They under-report the informal sector, rely on faulty population and baseline year estimates, and are often politically motivated. Many countries may be due to revise GDP estimates upwards by 50% or more when they correct these in the coming years.

2 - international institutions (WB and IMF) dont help the problem - theyre emphasis on generating ag
Jul 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
An important response to today's data obsession. Jerven calls attention to certain organisations' tendency to rank countries on all sorts of measures and figures, such as GDP, without taking a moment to stop and look at whether the estimates are worth the paper they are written on. "Datasets are like guns: if left lying around, someone will use them", he observes.

Moreover, he points out why it is a problem that these figures aren't accurate. If we don't know what a country's population is, how c
Dec 30, 2013 rated it liked it
Had some solid points and was well researched but droned on. The arguments could've been conveyed in half the number of pages. It also could have been more clearly written but to be fair, it was most likely written for those in the field of development economics and not the general populace.
Dec 31, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is important and necessary, and I am absolutely sure it will be essential reading for NGOs, activists, development experts and academics who work in the field of African development. I hope African statisticians are able to use it to claw in more support and funding for their clearly grossly underappreciated work.

For a lay reader though, well, there is only so many times an author can say “the World Bank makes shit up”. Especially when they never directly says it because they are very
Hannah Patnaik
Feb 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Very good and important message on the problems with data collection and analysis in Africa. However, as others have mentioned, it was unnecessarily repetitive.
Ahrrr Kayyy
Jun 22, 2013 rated it liked it
Interesting read, but the Private Sector does possess data - so not as bad a situation as he makes out
Sep 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Basic premise:
• “Not everything that counts can be counted; and not everything that can be counted, counts” Einstein – I always have liked this quote.
• African statistics are of dubious quality, it is often hard to validate sources. The book focuses on the estimation of national accounts and GDP statistics, which is hard for any country to do (due to assumptions needed on income, population, etc.), but much harder for national statistics offices across Africa without the necessary resources, g
Oct 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting read with useful lessons for policymakers

I have enjoyed this book, despite being quite specific (and therefore, unlikely to be interesting to the general reader). It identifies the problem with African statistics in a very clear and didactic manner and offers relevant and "easy-to-apply" recommendations for policymakers. It has certainly helped me look at country data in a totally different way.
Coney Islander
Sep 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Important book, and a great introduction to some of the core challenges of producing and using data for better development policy and practice, with a focus on GDP. Unfortunately, it reads like an unedited final draft and the Kindle edition contains various syntax and grammar errors. That said, it does not take away from the content. Highlights are the brief history of statistical services in sub-Saharan Africa and the analysis of current challenges faced by national statistics offices.
Phil Spencer
Apr 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Really enjoyed the main idea of this book. I saw the author speak about the book before reading it, so I was already familiar with the core concepts. I was hoping the book were digger deeper than it did into these examples. Overall, an important main idea for development practitioners and economists to be aware of.
May 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Must read for users of African data! A good reminder to be cautious when creating new 'knowledge'. I would caution though that while some national statistical offices in Africa are in shambles, others are quite good and getting better. And non official data (private sector) needs to be better acknowledged, interrogated and utilized. ...more
May 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ipe, africa
This is a brilliant read and should be on every African scholars reading list. There are one or two proofreading issues along the way, but these don't detract from the overall quality of the book and its insights. ...more
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