It is near impossible to do any socio-economic planning for any country without analyzing the relevant data. Worse, planning for public services to be delivered becomes an exercise in guesswork when done without any relevant data.

This is the case with Nigeria.

Not to bore you with the details and history, Nigeria has been struggling to conduct, for many decades, an uncontested and successful population census since it gained independence. Furthermore, the country's national identification project has been a stop-start exercise over the years with no possible successful end in sight.

It also appears that the importance of data collection is lost on Nigerian authorities. You see this in the ongoing case where SAGEM, a foreign company, is holding Nigeria's ransom by refusing to hand over a database containing the details of over 50 million Nigerians concerning the national identification (ID) project. I say ransom because SAGEM has said that they are owed money and until such monies are paid, they are not releasing the database.

Nigerian authorities, on the other hand, have barely shown any urgency in this matter. Raising many concerns beyond IDs including the question of data sovereignty.

Summary of the database that SAGEM has of people in Nigeria. Currently SAGEM refuses to hand over the data due to a payment dispute with the Nigerian government.

This poor data collection culture is not only the case in Nigeria.

Take for example Kenya's biometric digital identification system for citizens known as Huduma Namba, on paper, it was a great idea. The aim was to create a single identity for anyone in Kenya. This would then help to facilitate and increase access to government services and also, hopefully, reduce identity theft.

However, since the project's launch in 2019, the project (officially known as National Integrated Identity Management Scheme - NIMS) has been quite a mess.

As Jacob Mugendi puts it:

"One challenge in the implementation was the lack of adherence to an enabling legal framework anchored in international best practice and treaties Kenya should ratify. Limited public participation meant that the public was not fully aware of what the system was about, as well as the potential benefits of the project. Instead of educating people so that they could register based on the perceived benefits, the government resulted in threats, warning people that they may not receive some government services if they did not register. This undermined the whole process because this is a major change to how people access government services and principles of change management should have been applied."

I could go on and give you many more examples of poor data collection cultures across different countries in Africa ranging from non-existent data collection by the government to defunding government data collection agencies as is the case in South Africa.

Unless this poor data collection culture changes, the lives of Africans won't improve much.

Today's top stories.

πŸ‘₯ The current identification system in Kenya has a major limitation because it is not digital. All the information is on physical paper, with a passport photo and a signature as the primary method of identification. It was hoped Huduma Namba would solve this. Link

πŸ—ƒοΈ Still on the subject of data collection in Africa. In Nigeria, a foreign company, SAGEM, still has access to an offshore database it collected on Nigerians. SAGEM has so far refused to hand over the turnkey system to Nigeria's National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) claiming it is due to a payment of $6.1 million maintenance fees inclusive of the $2.444 million for 8 million cards it has not delivered. This further highlights the poor data collection culture across Africa generally speaking and it implies that the stakeholders have not comprehended the implications that a compromise of such data has on its citizens. Link

πŸ’‰ As it is mostly during our time, it appears it was the same many centuries ago. A new book details some of ancient Egypt's technologies and how they arose out of a need to make life better. Titled β€œAncient Egyptian Technology,” the book also discusses the different aspects that made ancient Egypt exceptional and allowed for the emergence and flourishing of the first civilization in recorded history. Link

πŸ“² ByteDance, the company that owns TikTok and Douyin (a Chinese version of TikTok), is launching a payment service - Douyin Pay. The new payments service will allow users to buy virtual gifts on the platform. More importantly, it's also viewed as a competitor to Alipay and WeChat Pay. Link

Today's Quote

A good data collection culture is important when it comes to planning. This is one area that African governments need to improve on as a priority. (Tweet this | Share on WhatsApp)

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