When statisticians decided to track how well African countries were doing in moving towards their 2030 UN sustainable development goals (SDGs), they discovered a curious thing: no-one had the faintest idea. More accurately, on average, African governments keep statistics covering only about a third of the relevant data.

To be fair, the goals, which range from eradicating poverty and hunger to creating sustainable cities and communities, are overly complicated and sometimes unquantifiable. The millennium development goals they superseded had eight goals with 21 indicators. The SDGs have 17, with 232 indicators. Yet statisticians for the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which compiled the report, are on to something. African states don’t know enough about their people. ..

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