‘Data is Like Learning a Language – embrace it or Lose it – says CEO of Afrobarometer

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Thirty African researchers graduated from the Afrobarometer/University of Pretoria summer school Friday with a word of encouragement to use their new skills to contribute to Africa’s development.

“Data is like learning a language – use it or lose it,” Joseph Asunka, Afrobarometer ‘s CEO told the group.

Afrobarometer conducted the free, three-week training program in collaboration with the University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Humanities and Future Africa, a pan-African research institute pioneering approaches to research and innovation on the continent and beyond.

Intended to equip African scholars with solid skills in data collection and analysis, the curriculum focused on research design, survey methodology, analysis and use of social statistics in one of three areas – democracy and public opinion, elections and electoral systems, and corruption and taxpayer compliance.

This English-language session was preceded by a French-language summer school at Université Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, Senegal, in August.

Initially designed for Afrobarometer staff and network partners, the summer schools now welcome other participants as part of a broader effort to strengthen research capacity on the continent.

“We believe that this will enable African researchers, policy actors, and civil society advocates to play more effective roles in African policy and development decision making,” Asunka said.

Prof Innocent Pikirayi, Deputy-Dean in the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Pretoria said: “As a Faculty we are delighted to be able co-host this event. We are particularly proud of the work all the participants produced. We look forward to growing this partnership in the years to come.”

The 30 participants – 60% women and 56% youth under the age of 35 – represented 15 African countries – Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tunisia, and Zimbabwe.

“The summer school has been an amazing experience,” said Simangele Moyo-Nyede, principal researcher for Mass Public Opinion Institute (MPOI) of Zimbabwe. “The knowledge I have acquired is enormous and so incredibly relevant to the work that I do.

The tutorials came in handy in helping us apply the statistical methods learnt. I gained new insights and fresh perspectives on democracy in the elective course.”