Data Availability Across Countries

How does the volume of data available in different economies compare? In this post, we summarise the number of data series available from the World Bank for different countries as a proxy for macroeconomic and social data availability.

Using the World Bank API, we calculate that there are 16800 indicators in total across countries available from the World Bank. To give a sense of the scale of the data available from the World Bank, the dataset has around 160 million rows in long format (i.e. one column that labels all the indicators).

Based on the data we downloaded, South Africa has around 11000 out of the available indicators, or 66% overall coverage. This is higher than for the median across all countries of around 9150 (around 54% coverage), compared to around 10100 (60%) for the median among G20 economies.

The chart below suggests that South Africa compares favourably to wealthy countries and other emerging markets in terms of the volume of indicators available.

However, South Africa’s indicators are available on a less timely basis than for many major economies. So, while South Africa does not lag on data volumes, this data source suggests that policymakers and firms in South Africa have to make decisions with less up-to-date information than in peer economies. One would also expect an inverse relationship between volume of data and the average last update of data series, as series on the fringes of availability are less feasible to maintain. However, South Africa has a similar volume compared to other G20 countries with less timely data.


We applied a timeout limit per indicator of 210 seconds for the purposes of this exercise. Since the World Bank rate limits its API and because some API queries did not return a response, we may have undercounted the true number of series available from the World Bank. To give a sense of the scale of the full dataset, it took almost 2 weeks to download fully, even with a timeout limit. The graphs here were compiled with 87% of the available data.

The Africa Monitor also provides a suite of data series on economic indicators (983 unique series) for many countries in Africa. The chart below shows that South Africa ranks favourably among African economies.

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