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Pastoralism: Africa’s invisible economic powerhouse?

Developing a framework for assessing the value of pastoralism in East Africa

Ced Hesse, James MacGregor - November 2012

Many elements of developing economies are missing from their national accounts. This is more than a statistical dilemma. It hampers the development of government policy, results in under-investment in those missing elements and simultaneous over-investment in others, and helps to paint an incomplete picture of the health, wealth and opportunities existing in these economies. There is a considerable literature on how the informal economy is excluded and the need to strengthen data collection for better policy development. This paper builds on this literature by examining pastoralism in order to exemplify this under-investment and marginalisation, which creates a vicious circle of impoverishment, conflict and environmental degradation in most developing countries with significant pastoral communities. Investment in data collection and analysis will result in considerable benefits to policy, activities to achieve sustainable development and transparency.

This paper calls for investments in developing countries in better statistical collection and analysis on the issues critical to sustainable development within those nations.

Many elements of developing economies are missing from national accounts. This is more than a statistical dilemma since it hampers development of government policy, results in under-investment in those missing elements, over-investment in other options, and helps to paint an incomplete picture of the health, wealth and opportunities in these economies. 

Governments of developing countries base many key decisions on data extracted from their national accounts. As such, these governments can undervalue a range of activities that are not captured in their national accounts. These include environmental services, informal social and economic services, and the informal economy, and resulting in the promotion of policies that seek to change or replace these services. 

This paper uses pastoralism to exemplify this underinvestment and marginalisation. The virtual absence of pertinent and reliable data confirming pastoralism’s contribution to national economies provides the underlying rationale for a general lack of support. The lack of recognition of pastoralism as an economic sector helps create a vicious circle of impoverishment, conflict and environmental degradation in most developing countries with significant pastoral communities. Specifically there are twin concerns over the impact of poor statistical management in developing countries. 

First, the informal economy is rarely captured. ...

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