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Occasional  Paper 13: African Data and Terminology Handbook

Edited By

Stephen Karekezi, John Kimani, Lugard Majoro and Waeni Kithyoma


Background 

One of the primary functions of the African Energy Policy Research Network (AFREPREN/FWD) is to provide accurate data to the right target group at the right time. Too often, the generation of data on energy is perceived by its detractors as a non-productive activity that is self-serving and of little use to practical policy decision-making. But the problem is often not with the intrinsic value of energy data sets but with their form, timing and target.

Available data on energy in Africa is mainly found in the form of minor chapters in annual reports released by national statistical authorities, as well as annual reports of national utilities and public petroleum companies. Most of the available data is usually on the electricity and, to a limited extent, petroleum imports. Coverage of other energy sub-sectors is often non-existent. National-level demand side energy data compilations are also very rare. Due to growing economic and political problems of the region, many African countries (particularly in the sub-Saharan Africa) have not been able to generate these annual statistical reports on a regular basis. Consequently, many of these reports are out-of-date. In addition, the data available is presented in non-standardized formats and units of measure, making it a complex and expensive process to compile cross-country comparative data.

Energy reports from international agencies such as the United Nations, the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the Economic Commission for Africa and the International Energy Agency (IEA) attempt to compile regional level data but the reports are not always reliable because the compilations rely on flawed national energy statistical reports. These kinds of reports suffer from problems of both form and timing.  AFREPREN/FWD has made an attempt at addressing this problem by establishing a modest database on the African energy sector. This publication is one of the outputs of this modest database initiative. 

Relevant energy data can also be found in internal reports prepared by field researchers or consultants. Most of these reports are generally lengthy; inaccessible; highly specialized in content; and, largely, confined to project-specific objectives. The reports rarely provide regional cross-country comparative data. Moreover, most of the reports are not available within the public domain and are thus difficult to procure. In other words, these kinds of reports are of limited use to persons outside the small and closed project circle. These kinds of reports face the twin problems of form and target.

The other kind of energy data sets that are available are in the form of papers in academic and scientific journals and formal publications. This kind of information is generally sparse particularly with respect to African energy issues. The number of journal articles and formal publications that cover the African energy sector are minuscule (AFREPREN/FWD books account for a significant share of available books on the African energy sector). In addition to being of limited quantity and coverage, the data sets found in journal articles and formal publications are often overtaken by events and can only provide a historical perspective. Timing appears to be the most important constraint to this type of data.

Useful data and information on the African energy sector can be obtained from internal memos and briefings in Ministries of Energy, national utilities, electricity regulatory agencies and petroleum companies. These data sets should not be overlooked since they provide the basis for major decision-making in the African energy sector. The problem with these data sets has less to do with their timing but more to do with their form and target.

All the above types of data sets suffer from one common drawback - target. The data sets are often not availed to the appropriate target group. Too often it is the energy policy maker cum energy policy analyst - the group that is crucial to the entire process of energy sector development who is missed. The question of focussing and targeting data and information on energy is one of the most important challenges that face the African energy policy research community.

With its large pool of principal researchers, policy makers, research associates and assistant researchers in most of eastern and southern Africa, AFREPREN/FWD has, in a sense, a ready-made audience and target group for its energy data initiatives. To date, AFREPREN/FWD has largely met the current challenge of meeting the information needs of its primary audience, its members. The future challenge will be the extent to which AFREPREN/FWD is able to reach a wider audience beyond the confines of its core membership. This African Energy Data and Terminology Handbook is an attempt at addressing this important dissemination gap. 

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