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In the East and Southern Africa region, a population growth rate of 2.58 per cent will mean a population of 1.1 billion by 2050, representing 47 per cent of Africa’s population.

This is the result of a substantial decrease in mortality rates, which preceded a decrease in fertility rates. Fertility rates in the ESA region remain, however, high with an average of 4.8 children per woman of reproductive age.

These trends have implications for development in the region. This is because there is a strong link between population dynamics and development issues such as sexual and reproductive health (including maternal health, family planning and HIV), young people’s needs, gender equality and poverty reduction. Lack of data and relatively weak national capacity to analyze and utilize statistical data undermine the integration of population and development issues into national policies.

Challenges in the region

The region faces significant challenges in the area of population dynamics, quality data availability and utilization for development:

  • The national civil registration and vital statistics (CR&VS) system is inadequate in most of the countries, particularly in Eastern Africa, despite its importance to and relevance in the measurement of mortality.
  • Three countries in Southern Africa (Eritrea, Democratic Republic of Congo and Madagascar) have not conducted a census in more than two decades.
  • Only five countries have established a functional integrated management Information system (IMIS) that is web-based, allowing remote access to the databases.
  • Most countries have not carried out a household income and expenditure survey to allow poverty mapping and analysis, for better targeting of interventions and resources.

Although civil registration, including registration of the cause of death and vital statistics, remains critical for producing and disseminating data, there is still low coverage in the ESA region. Resource mobilization, which strongly depends on national commitment and leadership, has proved a major obstacle to the successful implementation of the 2010 round of census and other statistical operations within the national statistical systems. For the 2020 round of censuses, all the rollout countries seek to embark on the use of new technologies for census data collection, analysis and dissemination during the period 2015-2024.

Addressing these challenges will require more evidence-based advocacy, communication and policy dialogue to accompany the political changes in the region for political commitment and support to data for development initiatives, and youth involvement and effective participation in the countries.

UNFPA’s response

  • UNFPA will respond to the call for the data revolution by closing key gaps in access and use of data, in order to enable data to play their full role in the realization of Sustainable Development. 
  • UNFPA sees the data revolution as a revolution in support of equality and rights. 
  • UNFPA will exercise its leadership and long-standing engagement with governments, the private sector, NGOs, the media and academic institutions in order to ensure the data revolution serves people-centred and sustainable development. 

UNFPA will play a key advocacy and facilitation role to foster South-South cooperation for excellence in ICT-enabled data production and management, and to support the platform of the national statistical systems (NSSs) to consolidate the continent’s statistical rejuvenation and development efforts and create platforms for the exchange of information, skills and best practices.