Explores the issue of poverty measurement in selected countries in the Southern African region, considering data availability, data requirements and the capacity of statistical bodies to collect and analyse information. The discussion is arranged by country and institution. Concludes that:
The availability and quality of poverty data varies considerably across Southern African countries. South Africa probably leads the field with its statistical collection agency having conducted a nationwide, household survey that measured numerous quality of life indicators each year since 1994. However, there has been a limited attempt to collect income and expenditure measures of poverty in that country and as yet no adequate time series exists to measure changes in income poverty levels over time. Zambia also conducted an impressive number of nationwide household surveys during the 1990s, measuring many aspects of poverty, including income and expenditure. Unfortunately the analysis of the data has not matched the effort put into collecting it and there appears to be a lack of feedback of poverty research into the policy making process.
The quality of data collected in a number of Southern African countries is a source of concern and seriously hampers poverty research. Data quality problems from Lesotho's statistical collection agency was highlighted in a report to the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper and as a result a private consultancy has become the major source of poverty information in that country. An income and expenditure survey conducted by Swaziland's official collection agency was deemed unsuitable by the World Bank to be used for nationwide poverty measures because of the significant underestimation of consumption in the survey. The poor quality of some of the data collected in South Africa's 1995 income and expenditure survey was exposed by the poverty mapping exercise undertaken by the official agency for data collection. These data problems will introduce uncertainty to future studies that will attempt to measure changes in the extent of income poverty over time. The lack of timeliness in the delivery of poverty data is a further problem experienced in a number of countries. The results of an Intercensal survey conducted in 1996 by the Namibian statistical collection agency have yet to be published while the results of a Labour Force Survey conducted in that country in 1997 were only published in 2001.
Despite the difficulties involved in the collection of data in Africa and the shortage of resources, a number of agencies have performed remarkably well in the collection of poverty data. Enormous progress has been made in South Africa since 1994 in measuring human well being while Zambia's agency needs to be singled out for its comprehensive monitoring of poverty during the 1990s following the adoption of a Structural Adjustment Programme. Users of data from Botswana's statistical agency regard the data as highly reliable. Mozambique's National Statistics Institute is a further success story with the organization having impressively increased their statistical collection capacity during the 1990s and their efforts in collecting poverty data having made an important contribution to the formulation of anti-poverty policies.
The report was commissioned by the Southern Regional Poverty Network for DFID South Africa