RENEW Strategies

Mo Ibrahim: How to Spend $10 Billion in Africa

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Joshua Weissburg
| March 1, 2010


When the Wall Street Journal asked ten philanthropists and executives how they would spend $10 billion to make the world better, they got plenty of good ideas. But to my mind, one was clearly the winner. Mo Ibrahim, the telecom mogul, offered a deceptively simple - and immensely valuable - idea: "Establish a statistics office in Africa." Why?

  • Africa's needs and potential are vast, while means are scarce. This necessitates efficiency, which is dependent on an ability to define aims, and to measure them, in order to assess results. In short, good governance.
  • This does not happen at the moment. The lack of comprehensive and reliable statistics inhibits all stakeholders, whether civil society, governments or donors.
  • So, I would use the $10 billion to fund the development of national or regional statistics offices. They would improve data collection and dissemination to ensure public access to, and sophisticated application of, these data.

Ibrahim is right on the money. From an analyst's perspective, Africa is a black hole. Whether you're in business, government or philanthropy, that makes it hard to know what you're getting into (there is no baseline data) and what you might hope to accomplish.

This data problem is one of the biggest that African SMEs face in attracting capital and business partners. The leading businesses, financial institutions and development projects in Africa will address this need over the next decade.