Leave a comment

Abstract of the 57th Issue of FACS

Welcome to CENFACS’ online diary!

12 October 2017


What’s on this week beginning 09 October 2017

This week is about revealing the main content of the next issue of CENFACS’ bilingual newsletter – FACS; issue which is about HOW WE CAN USE MATHS OR NUMBERS TO REDUCE POVERTY IN AFRICA. 

This week is also the second one for the History month while we are preparing and gearing towards the Making Memorable Difference (MMD) event.

This week’s engagement is finally the continuation of A la Une project.

  • Making Memorable Difference: Communicators of Africa’s History

As announced at the start of Autumn 2017, this year’s MMD will be on the means of communications and Communicators of the African History.  This is an open event for history-minded people.  If you have any materials and contributions to make to the MMD content, please do not hesitate to share with CENFACS.

To make a difference to and or support MMD, contact CENFACS   

  • A la Une (Autumn Leaves of Action to Upkeep the nature in Existence)

A la une is an environmental advocacy project aiming at reducing poverty while protecting the physical world and everything in it.  It is about exploring ways of using less natural resources to reduce poverty while caring for the plants, animals, mountains, oceans and rivers, stars, seas etc.  In doing so, we can help meet poor people’s own poverty-relieving and development goals while working to achieve the global goals and targets for sustainable development and carbon free world.  This Autumn and even after, we need to take actions on several fronts and facets to be able to realise the aim of reducing poverty and protecting the nature.  We are advocating for actions to be taken to protect what makes the nature in its features, forces and processes to exist independently of human beings.  Our Autumn work on nature will be a fivefold leaves of action of protection of Animals, Waters (e.g. oceans, lakes, rivers and seas), Air, Rainforests and Climate (weather).

After introducing A la Une with the topic of Reducing Conflicts between Humans and Animals over Natural Resources, we moved to consider Saving Endangered Animal Species in September 2017.  The following is the schedule for A la Une advocacy work

Week beginning                 Leaves of Advocacy Action

25 September 2017             Save Endangered Animal Species

09 October 2017                  Water Access and Conservation

23 October 2017                   Reduce Air Pollution

06 November 2017              Save Rainforests

20 November 2017              Climate Finance

To engage with these fortnightly environmental topics, please contact CENFACS.

Going back to the 57th issue of FACS, please find below the abstract of this issue.

  • Abstract of the 57th Issue of FACS


P = f(N)  Poverty is function of numbers

Poverty can be investigated by using both quantitative and qualitative methods and expressed by using quantitative and qualitative data.  We can use words (qualitative expressions) and or numbers (quantitative measures) to express our feelings and understanding about poverty.  Both methods or data or even techniques have their own values and merits, and can be used differently depending on the circumstances and types of study or campaign.  In an article published under the auspices of the United Nations Development Programme, Selim Jahan (1) noted that “development is best measured by the quantity of change… such metrics, while useful, do not tell the entire story of development… to understand that, we must consider the quality of the change that is being reported”.

Although what Selim said is true, our focus in this issue is on numeric representation or use to explain, monitor, evaluate and possibly cure the disease of poverty in Africa.  The 57th issue of CENFACS’ bilingual newsletter – FACS – is about the extent to which figures can enhance a poverty relief message.  This includes methods of presenting numbers, whether they are presented as graphs or charts (e.g. tables, bar or pie charts etc.).  By talking about quantitative data in this issue, we are not referring to sophisticated level of let’s say econometrics or statistical models.  We would like simply to point out the use of numbers or figures to express ourselves like one will do in plain English or French or any other language.  Recognizing the role and importance of numbers in communicating the poverty relief message, this does not mean that one should undermine or invalidate the power of words (qualitative data) or undervalue those who prefer words.   Instead, we should acknowledge the difficulty some individuals may have with numbers and help them to overcome this barrier. 

As Patrick Forsyth (2) put it “Numbers can either enhance written communication or they can confuse and, at worse, result in the communication falling on stony ground” (p.77).  We do not want our poverty relief message to fall on stony ground.  Numbers we use to help reduce poverty in Africa should not send confusion.  They should instead enhance the message of poverty reduction.  For example, if we were to run a sensitisation campaign against child trafficking through the use of relevant and understandable keywords, and the majority of people understood the keywords and got sensitised; that is good.  If we can argue that more than half of the children were rescued as a result of sensitisation; this is very good.  Conversely, if we could capture the impact of our campaign using numbers by expressing that 100 families were involved in our campaign and 57 children have been saved from trafficking, this is much better.  This is one of the many ways of using numbers to help reduce poverty.  Numbers can help us better understand the scale and deepness of poverty in numerical sizes or expressions. And if we set up ourselves a target or policy in numbers to help reduce the number of people in poverty we can start to argue that poverty is function of numbers one wants to relieve, that is P = f(N).  This is a basic mathematical function telling us that the more we get and understand the numbers in poverty, the more we can do something about poverty.  CENFACS’ Halving Poverty campaign and the 3 Bottom Thousands project move in that direction of illustrating how we can use numbers and figures to reduce or perhaps end poverty in the simplest way.

Having said that how can we use numbers to help reduce poverty in Africa?

We can do it by

  • tolerating numbers in our mindset in learning to demystify and like them
  • understanding that the lack of skills in numeracy should not be an excuse or barrier to use and read numbers and figures related to poverty issues in Africa
  • using numerical data to save lives and accommodating numbers in our response to poverty relief demands
  • making it easier to get the numbers we need to end poverty
  • responding to humanitarian appeals expressed in numbers
  • funding projects that help to get numbers or build numerical data banks
  • making numbers speak for the poor
  • facilitating access to numerical data and helping to build data infrastructures for poverty relief
  • telling the stories behind the numbers and going beyond to find out the reality on the ground about poverty
  • Creating and maintaining relationships between numbers used and words expressed in the context of poverty relief.

Briefly, we can use numbers to help reduce poverty in Africa by counting what is countable to do that.  This is what the 57th issue is all about. 

To reserve a copy or get more details about this issue, please contact CENFACS


(1) Selim Jahan, Counting What Counts in Development, UNDP, (http://hdr.undp.org/en/content/counting-what-counts-development) 

(2) Patrick Forsyth, How to Write reports and Proposals, The Sunday Times Creating Success (2nd edition), Kogan Page, 2007, London & Philadelphia (www.kogan-page.co.uk)


Thank you for supporting us and reading this post.

We look forward to receiving your regular visits to CENFACS website and continuing support.

With many thanks!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *