Data Visualizations

#DataViz1 | Afghanistan’s GDP by Economic Activity in Current Price 2002-2017

Written by Said Zazai

Afghanistan’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has shown great increase across different sectors over the past 15 years . I am using Central Statistics Office (CSO)’s data from year 1381 (2002/03) till 1395 (2016/17). There are some interesting points to highlight and I am presenting the visual charts towards the end of the page which you can use to better understand trends in the data.

First of all, Its good to see that CSO is making the data publicly available, which in fact is their mandate. However, the data hasn’t been updated recently, has a lot of formatting issues and is scattered across different files, not in a shape for any data person to easily analyze. Public agencies usually present the data in raw format with proper data dictionaries so that the modern Business Intelligence software can read it. The data goes through a series of data cleansing and quality check processes. The data on CSO website is actually reports in spreadsheets, meaning its not in a tabular format for easy processing (but pivot tables, which are matrix tables for presentation purposes). Also, data in a file is in three languages (two different writing scripts), which makes things even more complex. CSO management should need to understand that the public agencies’ three languages approach is for communication and presentation purposes. Data does not need to be stored in three languages in databases. If it really has to then they should be in three separate files.

This dataset provides GDP of various sectors in Afghanistan, however the the zigzags in the data are so unnatural that it clearly indicates the badness in data. 5% increase one year and 5% drop next year, and then again another rise is so painful to watch. However, if we assume that the data is the best we can get then there are some areas of interest that I would like to highlight. Please use the data visualization below generated in Power BI. Hover your mouse over the data points to see the individual sector’s contribution to the total GDP in a given year.

  • Slide 1 (Sector Growth and Contribution Year over Year – Absolute Scores) presents all sectors and their yearly GDP contribution and growth in Afghanis (Billion).
  • Slide 2 (Sector Growth and Contribution Year over Year in Percentage) presents all sectors and their yearly GDP contribution and growth in percentage of total.
  • Slide 3 (Year 1381 to 1395 Comparison) shows all sectors and their growth and score for year 1381 and 1395 in Afghanis (Billion).
  • Slide 4 (GDP by Sector 1381-1395) highlights selected sectors for the recent 5 years only. You can use the ‘Filters’ pane on the right to see it for all years.

Points of Interests;

  • Cereals industry (8.49%) is contributing more GDP than the telecommunication sector (6.04%) in the year 1395 (2016-2017)
  • Cereals industry has dropped from 18% to 8.49% in 15 years.
  • Telecommunications sector has gone up from 0.37% to 6% in 15 years.
  • Transport & storage has doubled in 15 years, from 9% to 18%.
  • Other Agriculture (Agriculture minus Cereals, Fruits and livestock) has fallen from one of the highest contributor in 1382 (15.9%) to 8.39% in 1395.
  • Producers of Government Services has grown from 4.94% to 12.45% in 15 years.
  • If you go through the above list again for the recent 5 years only, you’ll see the growth has become more steady.

I have listed a few points of interest but there could be more. This is an attempt to create discussions and awareness around public data. The data in databases are dull and boring, and general people usually do not bother to go through them particularly when the data is buggy, scattered and not presented well. Please use the charts below, read the data and share your opinion. This is first of the data visualization series of posts. I will providing similar visuals on sector specific data such as health, education, agriculture, telecommunication etc. Check again for more.

About the author

Said Zazai


  • dear Zazai,

    very good insights. i was not informed about public availability of these data. thank you for informing and very clear visualizations. i hope that i can contribute hereafter if they update the data or any new extractions from it. but i wanted to ask you that did you contact CSO officials for new data from the year 1396 and 1397 also? if no lets ask them and remind them of the importance and usefulness of these data or reminding them their jobs 🙂 plus sharing those comments you mentioned about the scarceness and format problems to be fixed in future.

    Thank you!

    • Dear Wazir,

      Thank you for your feedback. I am glad you liked the visualizations. I have not asked CSO for any additional data. I have used the data from their website. I don’t know anyone in CSO, nor I believe that they will respond to the public inquiries. CSO collects data from the ministries, so the 2 year lag could have been caused by the relevant ministries and not entirely by CSO. Their data has a lot of problems and if they were interested, I can share my feedback with them.

      Said Zazai

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