This past couple of weeks I have been befuddled at how the responsible Government body, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), ceded its core mandate and is instead behaving as though it is a “native informer”. Described by Prof. Mamdani:
“Native informers are researchers who are used to provide raw material – in form of data – to foreign academics who process it and then re-export it back to Africa.”Professor Mahmood Mamdani
Specifically, I am writing about the manner that UBOS is insufficiently overtly engaging, if at all, with other government bodies that are working on the covid-19 lock down relief cash. How is it not the job of UBOS to be pro-active in generating lists of the “vulnerable'”?
How is it not the job of UBOS to proactively reach out, in order to facilitate other government agencies in analysing already existing data and or in doing rapid sample data collection; which data can be used to make inferences and to provide briefs that would likely have a lower margin of error, as opposed to what we seemingly have now?
I wonder, if UBOS cedes its mandate as such, does it not validate what ‘outsiders’, from the global-west in particular, think of academics and practitioners of African descent; and therefore how they interact with us?
Dr. Stella Nyanzi @ photo credit wikipedia
Let me give some context. I have read opinions by Dr. Stella Nyanzi in which she critiqued what she considered the disrespectful manner in which our counterparts from other parts of the world, of the global-west in particular, disrespect academics and practitioners of Africa.
The ‘outsiders’, according to Dr. Nyanzi, could be students and or professors, consultants, among others. Dr. Nyanzi points out how even student ‘outsiders’ often approached her in a manner that reveals that they possesses a kind of entitlement – a superiority complex of sorts.
An entitlement which gives them an expectation that she would be eager to drop all that she was doing and to re-organise her work schedule, in order to attend to and to prioritize the requests for raw data from ‘outsiders’, even when the ‘outsiders’ arrived at her office without an appointment.
She also pointed out how ‘outsiders’ sometimes just added her name onto applications for research grants and then later they inform her in a manner that communicates that they, the ‘outsiders’, think that they are doing her a favour; while in fact, according to her, it was the other way round, because it is in fact her expertise that would most certainly advantage the application.
- How is it that UBOS is not thought of as the supreme government agency on matters accurate national data?
- How is it that all government agencies needing data in a user-friendly manner don’t simply request UBOS to do the needful?
- How is it that other government agencies are running around like headless chicken, so to speak, doing that which UBOS should have done already?
UNESCO defines researchers as:
Professionals who are engaged in the conception or creation of new knowledge, products, processes, methods and systems
Is this not the very mandate of UBOS?
Shouldn’t it have been the case, for example, that as soon as the Office of the Prime Minister declared that it would be providing relief cash to vulnerable communities, instead of dicing the government lists, as UBOS is doing, UBOS would have provided their informed opinion on which data it has that would be relevant?
And better still provide its counterparts – other government agencies with the necessary user-friendly analyses?