A gap or three in industry data

Investors and commentators require a full range of macroeconomic and industry data upon which to base their decisions and analysis. Governments and financial journalists share this requirement for their own reasons. However, Nigeria, despite being the largest economy in Africa, lags some lesser players on the continent in terms of the quantity and quality of its industry data. In part, this reflects the size of its informal sector and the limited reach of its tax collection agencies.

The most useful measures of consumption, notably active mobile lines and internet subscriptions, are provided by the Nigerian Communications Commission. The Communications Authority of Kenya, its counterpart, offers rather more, including: the number of mobile money subscribers, their transactions (number and value), the number of mobile money agents and total available bandwidth.

The authority’s latest report covers April-June 2017. There is no reason why the regulator in Nigeria could not coordinate a similar data offering. It is not as if the industry players (banks, IT companies and mobile operators) are impoverished.

Another useful measure of consumption is the data series on air passenger traffic provided by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). We have to add our own manufacturing PMI, and the CBN’s too.

The largest statistical gap is the absence of a single, unified data source on production of crude oil and LNG. This makes Nigeria unique among leading oil producers for the wrong reasons, and forces analysts to choose their favoured source from a large selection. An outsider might look to the state oil company as the starting point. Yet the NBS has had to revise its national accounts data from the previous quarter because the NNPC has changed its historic production numbers. This has happened several times.

Output numbers should be available from the larger segments of manufacturing, such as cement, soft drinks, beer and sugar. Where only a handful of companies is involved, there is no excuse.

Statisticians may not have the most glamorous occupation but they should enjoy far better access to the necessary raw materials for their work. They are not asking for sensitive or obscure information.

For the greatest impact, additional indicators should be published on a monthly basis and in a timely manner by a single agency. In Nigeria’s case, the obvious candidate is a properly funded NBS.

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