The Central Statistical Office (CSO) in Swaziland should undertake the role of being the national depository of all data in the country.
This was the view of Dr Moses Sithole who said once the statistics from census and surveys are centralised, the country would be able to accelerate economic growth as all the data would be in one place.

He was speaking during a two-hour workshop themed ‘The Importance of Data and How It Should be Managed to Help Swazi Policymakers Effectively and Efficiently Address the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)’. This was during first ever Swaziland Economic Conference 2017 hosted by the Swaziland Economic Policy Analysis and Research Centre (SEPARC), Central Bank of Swaziland (CBS) and the University of Swaziland held at the Royal Swazi Spa Convention Centre.

He said the CSO should play a coordinating role on issues if research. Dr Sithole said government ministries and departments such as the higher education council and research institutions should continue to conduct studies and submit the aggregated data to the CSO.

He made an example of the Ministry of Health which is said to have conducted many studies, but it is imperative that they shared their statistics so that each goal was addressed. “It is important that the SDGs and other national policies are incorporated such as the National Development Strategy (NDS) and Vision 2022 are linked to avoid duplication,” he said.

Speaking on the importance of data Sithole said it is crucial that Swaziland builds a reliable database. He added that while there is usually no shortage of information on which to build institutional level strategies inside of public and private institutions, it is only through a nationwide assessment that the patterns of the phenomenon being measured across institutions and groups can be assessed and analysed.

He said there is a need to ensure that census studies and surveys are collected in an orderly manner. Sithole said this is achievable through several steps such as collecting the data, analysing it, dissemination, evaluating it and quality measures which are to be put in place. He said Swaziland needs to have quality and reliable data for national usage and to contribute to the regional and global structures.

“The research organisations should work very closely with the CSO and further follow the 10 United Nations fundamental principles of official statistics,” he said.

The statistics office was also advised to at all times liaise with global bodies particularly in the attainment of the SDGs which are to be achieved by 2030. He said it is important to put in place and implement a monitoring plan because anyone can simply give out the wrong data.
“It is important that when the CSO has any data that is handed to them it keeps it anonymous particularly that from surveys which were conducted and the participants had been promised that they would remain unknown,” said Sithole.

It was presented that there is a great need to modernise the national statistic system and to strengthen the office itself, and in that manner the country can build a reliable database. He said in most instances estimates are made from some statistics, but emphasised that the estimates should be as close as possible to the truth.

Dr Sithole is a mathematician and a statistician, and a Chief Research Specialist at the Centre for Science and Innovation Indicators at South Africa’s Human Sciences Research Council. He lectured for 22 years at the University of Swaziland, Department of Agriculture.

Private sector should have sponsored Conference

The private sector should have been one of the major sponsors of the Swaziland Economic Conference (SEC) 2017, it has been noted.
This was the view of many participants at the inaugural SEC 2017 held at the Royal Swazi Spa Convention Centre.

During a lecture held by Dr Moses Sithole on why data is important and how it should be managed to help Swazi decision and policymakers effectively and efficiently address the Sustainable Development Goals, the participants asked what could be done to ensure that there is quality data.

Dr Sithole said the private sector could play a major role because it has the capability to finance research. “For example, the private sector should have sponsored this conference because they are a huge part of building the country’s economy,” he said, adding that he was surprised that the institutions (SEPARC, UNISWA and Central Bank of Swaziland) behind the conference are themselves sponsored organisations.

Dr Mcebisi Mkhwanazi from the University of Swaziland, Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, wanted to know if the quality of data is affected by the non-availability of resources. Dr Sithole said data quality definitely needs money and personnel, which he believes could come from the private sector.

He said however Swaziland is at an advantage because it is a small country. He said through the support of the private sector, surveys could be conducted along the Ngwenya-Lomahasha corridor, which could have accurate data.

The participants were concerned about why the collection of data is similar for both the Sustainable Development Goals and the Millennium Development Goals, and called for more innovative ways of collecting data.

It was submitted that the private sector could also assist with innovative ways and gadgets which could help in the collection of data.
A young participant from the University of Swaziland also said as students they could be the ones who collect data and the private sector could be able to play a leading role in sponsoring the studies.

“Ground breaking technologies are necessary to have quality data,” said one of the participants. On another note, the participants wanted to know what could be done to ensure that quality data is achieved. “Some people lie when they fill in forms and one wonders how we could change that,” said another participant.

It was said that public awareness needs to be made to survey participants so that they realise the importance of why accurate data is needed to help the country have a better economy.