Listening to Africa

Data and evidence are crucial to monitoring and meeting the World Bank Group’s goals of ending poverty and promoting the welfare of the least well-off in every country. They are also necessary for planning and assessing policies and programs with a view toward reaching the most vulnerable. Traditionally, data collection is done in person through extensive, often costly, household surveys touching on a range of welfare indicators and reaching a large set of households. But what about when governments and organizations need quicker answers on key indicators or need to bridge the gap between household surveys? This is where innovative methods can bolster capacity and help complement existing approaches.

The World Bank’s Listening to Africa (L2A) initiative is one such program. L2A is a collaboration with national statistical offices and NGOs in sub-Saharan Africa to pilot the use of mobile phones to regularly collect information on living conditions. The approach combines face-to-face surveys with follow up mobile phone interviews to collect data that allows welfare monitoring . It is currently operating in a number of countries -  Madagascar, Malawi, Senegal, Tanzania, Togo, and Mali - where there is a strong demand, capacity for implementation and sufficient network coverage.

And with the expanding coverage of mobile phone network in Africa, there is an unprecedented opportunity to collect welfare data more frequently and at a lower cost, satisfying the growing demand for national and sub-national welfare data. To learn more about the methodology, click here.

Using a sample of 2,000 rural and urban households, Listening to Madagascar, monitors the welfare of Malagasy people. The sample is drawn from the national Millennium Development Goal 2012-2013 survey. It is being piloted by the World Bank in partnership with the Madagascar National Institute of Statistics (INSTAT), with initial financial support from the Madagascar Governance and Institutional Development Project (Programme de Gouvernance et de Developpement Institutionnel, PGDI2).  

Since early 2014, the project has provided both technical and financial support for the new monitoring system of household living conditions in Madagascar and has helped set-up a well-functioning call center managed by the Human Network International-Madagascar.

Data generated from this survey are disseminated to the public via the INSTAT website.

In the past 7 days, did you worry that your household would not have enough food?


Source : INSTAT/HNI, A l’écoute de Madagascar

Launched in mid-2014, Listening to Malawi reached over 1,500 households, encompassing every district except Likoma. The sample was drawn from the Third Integrated Household Survey (IHS3) conducted in 2010-11, which was supported by the World Bank’s Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS). The baseline survey was conducted over a two-month period by the National Statistical Office. The phone surveys were conducted monthly with the same households. Upon participating in a phone survey, each respondent received a token reward in the form of a small phone credit (400 Kwacha).

The survey provides updated information on household welfare and socio-economic status.  Results are presented at the national and urban-rural levels, and can be separated by gender..

Proportion of individuals who were happy with their primary economic activities and willingness to work more hours


Source: Listening to Malawi Survey (April 2015)

Over 86 percent of Senegalese households are estimated to have at least one mobile phone, according to the National Survey of Information Technology and Communication (Entics), conducted in 2009 by the Senegal National Agency of Statistics and Demography (ANSD, 2014), making the country particularly suitable for mobile surveys.

The Listening to Senegal baseline survey, a joint effort of the World Bank and the national statistical office (ANSD), includes 1,500 nationally- and urban-rural representative households, with an additional 500 selected as replacement households to help manage the risk of attrition and non-response. The sample has been drawn from the 2011 Senegal Poverty Monitoring Survey (ESPS II). The baseline survey was completed in January 2015 and mobile phone interviews are being conducted every month from a call center. Respondents receive a token reward in the form of a small phone credit (1,000 CFAF).

Data generated from this survey are disseminated to the public via the ANSD website.

In the past 7 days, did you worry that your household would not have enough food?


Source: ANSD, Listening to Senegal, 2014

Since January 2014, the World Bank has partnered with Twaweza, a local civil society organization focused on improving public access to reliable information, to implement mobile phone surveys in Tanzania. Twaweza’s Initiative, Sauti za Wananchi (Voices of Citizens), implemented a baseline household survey from October to December 2012. The data were collected from a representative sample of 2,000 households in mainland Tanzania based on the 2012 population and housing census data from the National Bureau of Statistics.  

Since February 2013, Twaweza has collected mobile survey data from a representative sample of mainland Tanzanians once or twice every month. Topics include education, health, SIM card tax and the new constitution. Data generated from this survey are disseminated to the public via the Twaweza website.

Average waiting period of ill individuals at a health facility (in minutes) 


Source: Estimates based on Sauti za Wananchi round 15 (August 2014)

Listening to Lome is part of the the World Bank’s Listening to Africa initiative in Togo. The World Bank partnered with the national statistics office, l'Institut National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques et Démographiques – INSEED (formerly called Direction Générale de la Statistique et de la Comptabilité Nationale - DGSCN),  to conduct a survey that monitors welfare and evaluates development programs across Lome, the capital and largest city of Togo. The face-to-face baseline survey was conducted in March 2014, with follow up mobile phone interviews beginning in May 2014. The Lome mobile phone survey builds on the 2011 Questionnaire des Indicateurs de Base du Bienetre (QUIBB) survey. The sample for the mobile phone survey is a sub-sample of the QUIBB, implying that additional data are available for all participating households. Data generated from this survey are disseminated to the public via the INSEED website.

Compared to 6 months ago (month of baseline survey), has the frequency of power cuts increased, stayed the same or decreased these days? (Share of Lome Urban households)


Source: Listening to Lome (DGSCN)

Hundreds of families who fled the cities in Northern Mali after the unrest are returning home. However, they face new problems including food insecurity, limited access to social services and continued exposure to violence. Up-to-date information on the welfare of returning refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) is not available, making planning extremely difficult. The Listening to Displaced Peoples Survey (LDPS) allows to meet urgent data needs of decision makers and to provide regular feedback on the effectiveness of IDPs, refugee return programs. The approach combines a face-to-face baseline survey with monthly mobile phone interviews that monitor the well-being of refugees, IDPs, and returnees, understand their changing perceptions on social and political issues, collect information on incentives and challenges for return, track the evolution of the crisis from the view point of refugees, IDPs and returnees. The sample of 500 adult respondents, which consists of 51 percent male and 49 percent female, includes IDPs living in Bamako, refugees in the refugee camps of Mauritania and Niger and returnees in the regional capitals of Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal. Following a baseline survey in July 2014, 12 monthly phone surveys have been completed. Once the baseline was completed, respondents started to receive phone interviews from a call center in Bamako at monthly intervals. Topics included migration, violence and insecurity, social cohesion, nutrition and food security, employment, perception of well-being and governance. Data generated from this survey are disseminated to the public via the GISSE website.

# of Meals per day over time 


Source: Listening to Displaced Peoples Survey