How A Census Can Drive Sustainable Development in Africa

In 2020 the West African Country of Ghana will conduct a census. This is a massive undertaking. Some 60,000 people will be deployed across the country in an effort to count every single person in Ghana on what is known as “census night.” This is expected next March.

In a recent reporting trip to Ghana, I got a sense of what this process entails. Along with a few other journalists, I shadowed census takers, known as enumerators, as they tested their systems in a few places around Accra. This included a mental health hospital and an urban slum. The idea is to ensure that even marginalized groups are counted in this census, so enumerators are designing strategies to count people who have no fixed address or might be in institutions, like hospitals.

The enumerators were also field-testing their tablets. Unlike in previous census rounds in 2010 and 2000, in 2020 census data will be collected using tablets, which provides for a far quicker turnaround time than conventional paper processing.

On the line with me to discuss how the census will be conducted, the kinds of questions that will be asked, and how census data can be harnessed to advance national goals around sustainable development is Omar Seidu. He is the Head of Demographic Statistics and Coordinator for the Sustainable Development Goals at the Ghana Statistical Service, a government agency.

This conversation offers a unique perspective on the kind of herculean effort that is required to conduct a census in a developing country like Ghana. We also offers a really good grounding in why a census is such a valuable undertaking to advance development goals. As Omar Seidu explains, better data adds increased efficiency and informs government interventions intended to advance the sustainable development goals.

If you have 20 minutes and want to learn how census data is both collected and put to use in the service of sustainable development, have a listen.


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