Ethiopia will conduct population estimates between census periods in May 2012 for the first time. Hopes are that updating the data more often will avoid the kind of controversy that brewed after the 2007 housing and population census, a senior statistics official said in Cape Town.
Population estimates between census periods, common practices in other parts of the world, would help Ethiopia avoid the kind of inflated projections that led to disputes over the census conducted five years ago, said Samia Zekaria, Director General of the Central Statistical Agency.
The mid-term census is conducted between two regular censuses to determine if population growth trends are in accordance with projections made until the next regular census. While the regular census is conducted mostly in 10 year intervals covering the entire country and gathering data door to door from each household, intercensal estimates come in the middle and are done with a sampling model.
Ethiopia initially planned to sample three million households but budget constraints have forced the Central Statistical Agency (CSA) to reduce it to 300,000 across the nation, according to a British data processing technology expert. The British company provides latest data processing technology to CSA and was involved in the 2007 housing and population census, the expert told Capital in Cape Town.
The 2007 census registered far less population in Addis Ababa and Amhara Regional State than the expected based on results a 1994 census conducted.
According to Samia, the projections were so inflated that they were much different than the actual census outcome in some places. This was especially true with regard to religious denominations. Had Ethiopia conducted estimates in the interim, the discrepancy between projections and actual results that led to controversy could have been avoided, she said.
“Because Ethiopia’s federal government allocates budgets to regions based on population size, the outcome of our  census also had political implications for some regions,” Samia told a global gathering of statisticians in Cape Town, South Africa on Wednesday.
She was sharing Ethiopia’s experiences in conducting census at a session of the 7th Africa Symposium on Statistical Development (ASSD) slated for discussing challenges African countries face in gathering statistical data.
Get Serious on Statistics
Also at the same conference, African statisticians have called for more attention to statistics as a key aid for planning development strategies.
The call came Wednesday, January 18 at the opening of the 7th ASSD and 3rd Statistical Commission for Africa (StatCom Africa III) in Cape Town.
The two conferences were organized by Statistics South Africa – and the Statistical Commission for Africa (StatCom Africa) – a subsidiary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) under the African Centre for Statistics.
Perhaps a sign that it shares the view that statics has an important role in Africa’s development, the Africa Development Bank (AfDB) has at the conference announced that it allocated additional of 50 million dollars to finance statistical development efforts on the continent.
Prof. Nthuli Ncube, Chief Economist and Vice President of the AfDB, said in a recorded message shown at the opening that the Bank has mobilised about 100 million dollars in direct grants to assist African countries to strengthen their statistical capacity building efforts in the last 10 years.
He also stated that on January 18, 2012, the AfDB board was considering “another proposal to mobilize 50 million dollars towards assisting statistical development efforts on the continent”.
It is also at the same conference that South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, said that inadequate civil registration and vital statistics in Africa have led to poor planning and development efforts.
According to her, these statistical tools would help countries plan properly to address basic issues of education, health, infrastructure and other development parameter.
She said past poor civil registrations are the results of colonialism, and of apartheid in South Africa’s case, which considered Africans as sub-humans.
Accordingly, focus should be on improving civil registration and vital statistics said Dimitri Sanga, Director of African Centre for Statistics, in a statement he presented on behalf of Abdoulaye Janneh, Executive Secretary UNECA.
“We need statistics to support the strenuous efforts governments are making towards poverty reduction and the social and economic betterment of their people,” he told the statisticians.
Proper statistics would also help good governance and human rights agendas, according to him.
(Omer Redi is a Correspondent for Inter Press Service, and Media and Communications Consultant based in Addis Ababa. He can be reached through