Officials from Eastern and Southern Africa, including debt managers from Kenya, completed hands-on training last week to produce quality debt data using a new Commonwealth tool that will help governments better understand their financial circumstances.
The Commonwealth Secretariat, in partnership with the Macroeconomic and Financial Management Institute for Eastern and Southern Africa, delivered the training in Maseru, Lesotho, from 25 to 29 September 2023.
New tool for quality debt data
The training aimed to equip officials with the necessary skills and knowledge to perform quality checks on debt data using the new tool, called the Debt Data Quality Assessment Framework, developed by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
Delegates received comprehensive instructions on conducting a six-step data quality assessment of their debt databases using the tool to identify and mitigate data risks, ultimately enhancing debt transparency.
Libako ‘Mamahase Leisanyane, Director of Lesotho’s Economic Services, opened the training and welcomed debt management officers from Botswana, Eswatini, Kenya, Lesotho, Namibia and Tanzania.
In her remarks, she highlighted that maintaining comprehensive, accurate and timely statistics is essential for effective debt management operations.
Quality data, the Director explained, supports the design and delivery of strategies to manage debt, enhances transparency through regular reporting and ensures timely debt servicing.
Going beyond numbers
Speaking at the training, Mac Banda, acting Head of the Commonwealth’s Debt Management Unit, stressed that quality data on public debt is not just about numbers; it forms the foundation of transparency and informed decision-making.
He added: “However, many countries still face challenges in generating error-free debt data. The lack of confidence in their debt data limits their willingness to share it externally, which, in turn, undermines responsible lending, investor confidence and overall financial stability.”
Recent data from the World Bank reveals that nearly 40 per cent of low-income developing countries have never published their debt data on their websites.
Furthermore, Mac Banda pointed out that many Eastern and Southern African countries face increased debt risks due to slow economic growth and the lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He added: “As a result, decisions on public debt restructuring and new financing options have taken centre stage. However, the success of these efforts depends on the availability of quality debt data.
“Through our tool, we hope countries will be much more equipped to tackle data quality issues that will save money, reduce risks, and allocate resources more wisely – thus paving the way for sustainable development.”
During the training, delegates commended the robust features of the new tool, expressing confidence that it would bring tangible improvements to their day-to-day operations.
In addition, they benefitted from a presentation on how Commonwealth Meridian, a web-based software, could also support their efforts to improve debt statistics and manage risks to debt sustainability.
The training is part of an ongoing series of activities organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat in partnership with the Macroeconomic and Financial Management Institute for Eastern and Southern Africa, aimed at promoting debt sustainability in the region.