Book Reviews, Nicolas van de Walle, Agnès Labrousse, Carlos Oyo, Morten Jerven, Coordinated by Boris Samuel “Morten Jerven, Poor Numbers: How We Are Misled by African Development Statistics and What to Do about It, Ithaca/London, Cornell University Press, Cornell University Studies in Political Economy Collection, 2013, 176 pages
In addition to being enjoyable and highly readable, Morten Jerven’s book is an important one. His findings, of the essential unreliability of African national accounts, pose challenges for all students of the region, since they undermine our faith in very basic economic data from the region. That the data coming from Africa are bad is one of the first things one learns in an Africanist education. But Jerven’s book has the enormous merit of showing us precisely just how bad these data are and why. His account is so devastating that no one of good faith can continue to uncritically report national accounts data from the Africa region without qualification, let alone use these data to develop precise conclusions about these economies and their evolution. This brief comment discusses two implications of his main findings, and then develops a somewhat longer argument on an issue that is perhaps under-developed in the text.
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