How new population count will shape counties’ plans

This year’s World Population Day comes at a special moment for Kenya. In just over a month’s time, the country will conduct a much-awaited population census whose result will be crucial in driving its medium-term socio-economic planning decisions.

The survey, scheduled for August 22 to 25, will grant technocrats a more precise account of the country’s population.

A lot has changed since Kenya conducted its last population census with officials having to rely on estimates to plan.

Besides population growth since the last census in 2009, the country’s governance system has transformed into a two-tier one — necessitating fresh data to capture the shifts in development and financing needs across the various sectors of the economy.

New population figures will be particularly important to the counties which now handle key functions including agriculture, water and health.

The 47 devolved units established in 2013 and national government continue to grapple with lack of population specifics in budgeting and planning on resource allocations and next month’s exercise is set to address the information gap.

“The information will be collected at low levels and we look forward to be getting statistics by county which should help them in the CIDPs (County Integrated Development Plans), get accurate information on resource allocation in the counties and also monitor development programmes,” Treasury Secretary Henry Rotich said.

The estimated 10 million increase in population since 2009 has further shone spotlight on the strain on existing infrastructure in health, security and water, with the government rolling out ambitious plans to address the challenges.

President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the Big Four Agenda tied to food security, affordable housing, manufacturing growth and healthcare. The four sectors have been allocated Sh450.9 billion in the current year, an increase of Sh50 billion from the 2017-18 period underlining the government’s resolve to improve the citizen’s lives.

Reliance on estimates

A lack of up-to-date data on the population and trends in the health, education and jobs sectors has however left counties and national government relying on estimates and outdated data to budget for programmes.

Education levels, people living with disabilities, housing conditions, marital status and for the first time, information on household involvement in agriculture form part of the information to be captured.

Agriculture accounts for a third of the country’s economic output and information on the number of families in subsistence and commercial farming will boost government’s planning in addressing food insecurity and job creation in the industry. The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) is banking on the use of the digital devices to speed up results with the provisional numbers set to be ready by next March to form the basis of county and national budgets for the 2020-21 period.

By March we will have preliminary results then by the end of the year we will have the in-depth analytical reports … we will also have county specific reports and this will help the units plan in their development agenda,” Zachary Mwangi, the KNBS director-general, said on Tuesday.

The lack of updated data on the country’s numbers comes at a time when the country continues to experience high levels of extreme poverty underlining President Kenyatta’s ambitions by 2022.

The World Poverty Clock report last year ranked Kenya eighth globally and sixth in Africa among countries with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty.

The further said that 29 per cent (14.7 million) of the 49,684,304 people are very poor and consume less than Sh197 ($1.90) per day or Sh5,910 monthly.

This article was first published in Business daily