Visit to National Treasury´s secure facility offers a glimpse into the data supporting policy making in South Africa 

MAY 2023

On 4 May 2023, representatives from the European Union, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), and the South African Revenue Services (SARS) visited South Africa's National Treasury (NT) to learn more about the secure data lab there. This lab provides researchers located worldwide access to relevant, up-to-date anonymized administrative tax data to conduct research to support policymaking in the southern African region. The National Treasury Secure Data Facility (NT-SDF) is part of a joint initiative between the Southern Africa – Towards Inclusive Growth (SA-TIED) programme, the NT, SARS  and the United Nations World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER). Since opening in 2013, the lab has grown significantly. In 2018, it expanded to accommodate the increasing demand for access to data. 

During their visit, the representatives received a presentation which included an overview of the lab's daily activities, its significance, and the influence of its research on policymaking in South Africa. The presentations were delivered by SA-TIED staff who work closely with the SA-TIED researchers daily. Senior SARS official Mamiky Leolo spoke about the collaborative efforts between SARS and SA-TIED as far as anonymizing the tax data is concerned. 


A group of people sitting in a room

Description automatically generated with low confidenceResearch Fellow, Aimable Nsabimana presents on the data pipeline 

The representatives had an opportunity to experience the lab's day-to-day operations and processes. "It was fantastic to see the work done through SA-TIED at National Treasury. Such close collaboration between the government of South Africa, academics, researchers, and data scientists is impressive, and it's exciting that this is already informing policy debates. As the data lab continues to grow, I look forward to seeing what new areas of policy we can use this to support, helping to reduce inequality and increase economic growth for the people of South Africa,” said James Beeson, FCDO Economic Advisor.  

delegates standingFCDO and EU representatives visit the data lab for a guided tour by Research Assistant, Marvelous Kadzima 

The data lab is one of a handful of global data labs, making the visit a unique opportunity to experience the workings of such a facility firsthand. The visit highlighted the significance of secure data facilities in generating high-quality research to inform policymaking, it also demonstrated how the investment in SA-TIED has impacted the work at the lab.