Census 2021: What’s in it for Namibia?

By Nelson Ashipala

COVID-19 has come to rattle the world and its ripples are being felt within the statistics industry as well. The timing of the pandemic could not have been any worse as it is currently coinciding with the 2020 Decennial Census data collection period. As of April 1, Zambia reported that they had halted the census mapping activities altogether, at least until the Covid-19 situation normalises. Locally, the Namibia Statistics Agency just announced that census mapping will resume as from July 2020.

This will not be the first time that a virus is affecting a census undertaking. During the era of the Spanish flu, a certain census report highlighted how there was some form of discomfort in the 1920 Census results and filed protests questioning the accuracy. It read, “The almost complete cessation of immigration in 1914, and to a less extent to the ravages of the influenza pandemic and the effects of the war, many cities and towns have been disappointed with the census, and have filed protests questioning their accuracy.”

The 2020 World Population and Housing Census Programme recognises the population and housing censuses as one of the primary sources of data needed for formulating, implementing and monitoring policies and programmes aimed at inclusive socioeconomic development and environmental sustainability. It further recognises population and housing Censuses as an important source for supplying disaggregated data needed for the measurement of progress for the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. Targets such as zero hunger and clean water and sanitation can be measured with census information.

Without Census data, we will not be able to plan. How many schools should we build? How much should Government budget for the old age grant? Population and housing census information is important for policy and planning purposes. It serves asa foundation for good governance and for measuring development progress. In our case, we can use it to measure how far off we are with the targeted development plans that have been set in place. The data collected through census can help Namibia to make decisions for the future. Censuses are a comprehensive source of statistical information for economic and social development planning. The distribution and allocation of Government funds for health services, education purposes, all this can only be highly effective with the assistance of up to date census information. Capital project budgets depend highly on census information. How many boreholes will be needed in the Omaheke region?

What happens then if we call off the census altogether? High net undercounts can provide misleading public impressions about the size or growth of the population and these perceptions can have significant impact on public and private investment decisions related to a community. The onus will thus be on the NSA having to find the most suitable method to collect census data.

Nelson Ashipala (CPRP) is a Senior Communications Officer at the Namibia Statistics Agency