KNBS settles on strategies to deliver credible census

Saturday July 27 2019

Kenya National Bureau of Statistics Director General Zachary Mwangi gives his remarks during the 2019 Economic Survey launch at KICC on April 25, 2019. Mr Mwangi is confident that the forthcoming census will be credible. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

This week, Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) Director General Zachary Mwangi answers your questions.


Is there a need for census given that we just had Huduma Namba listing?

1. Some of the past census results have been shrouded in controversies that have made some people not to believe their outcome. For instance in 2009, there were issues with results from then-North Eastern province whose population figures exponentially shot up over 10 years. The matter eventually ended up being litigated in court but that did not remove the doubts over the results. Can we be assured that the results of the forthcoming exercise will be believable by most, if not all, Kenyans and there will be none or minimal controversy over the outcomes?

Francis Njuguna, Kibichoi

All information and data provided by the Bureau is usually generated using international standards and guidelines to ensure quality.


One of the principle guidelines is professionalism, which is exercised by KNBS at all times.

It is against this background that KNBS pointed out some anomalies in a few areas in the last census. This time round, we are using technology, which has incorporated comprehensive internal data quality checks.

The Bureau is confident that the 2019 census results will be accurate and credible.

2. I work in market research industry and we generally work with Social Economic Classification (SEC) and Living Measurement Standards (LSM). They both revolve about income, expenditure, education level as well as household assets ownership, et cetera. My suggestion is, the census collects all these demographic data but doesn’t collect income/expenditure. Considering Kenyans will not give income information directly for various reasons, can the census collect average expenditure per day/month that can be extrapolated to annual expenditure? Is it possible to also include the income question though we know answers may not be accurate for various reasons?

Naftali Waburi, Kikuyu

The 2019 census undertaking process is guided by the UN principles and recommendations for conducting the 2020 round of censuses.

In the guidelines, topical issues are highlighted. As you have rightly pointed out, it is difficult to collect income/expenditure data in a census.

However, KNBS undertakes household expenditure surveys that provide robust information on consumption, expenditure and incomes.

Using the census information and data collected through the surveys, small area estimation techniques are usually used to derive an expenditure variable in the census. This will be carried out once census results are released.

3. The census is scheduled for the nights of August 24 and 25, the days being Saturday and Sunday, which are worship days for most Christians. Why did KNBS pick the days which might inconvenience some Christians? Do you have a contingency plan for an extra day in case you experience difficulties with either of the two nights?

Naftali Waburi, Kikuyu

The census is scheduled to start on the night of August 24th/25th, 2019, which has consistently been the case in all our censuses since independence.

Data collection will continue for a period of seven days till the end of August 31, 2019. All information provided will be in reference to the night of August 24th/25th, 2019.

4. In 2020, our neighbour Ethiopia will also be conducting its census. But unlike in our case, Ethiopia’s exercise will cost about Sh5 billion cheaper than Kenya’s — Sh13.4 billion ($129 million for Ethiopia) versus Sh18.5 billion for Kenya ($178 million) — despite Ethiopia having a larger population and land area than Kenya. What could explain such cost variances considering the two issues of population and land area?

Julius Owiti Oduya, Nairobi

The census undertaking is a process which has three phases: pre-enumeration, enumeration and post-enumeration.

The pre-enumeration phase in Kenya began way back in 2015, which mainly involves cartographic mapping for the whole country, publicity, and many other activities.

The post-enumeration involves analysis, reports generation and dissemination of results that will go beyond 2020.

The said budget covers census activities up to production of all the publications, which are over 18 in number.

Apart from land area and population, other factors that impact on the budget include enumerators and other census personnel emoluments.

As to how much Ethiopia will be spending, kindly confirm your figures.

5. In the previous two censuses, 1999 and 2009, there were many people and households that were not enumerated. What measures have you put in place this time to make sure each person and household is enumerated?

John Kirimi Mwitia, Kangema

In the previous censuses, majority of the people were enumerated as per our records.

As already stated above, we have provided for a seven-day period for enumeration and we encourage those who for one reason or another will not have been enumerated by end of August 31, 2019, and who will have spent the night of August 24/25, 2019 within the boundaries of Kenya to report to the local administrative office or contact KNBS through +254 (0)20 3317586/8 or [email protected]

6. A country's statistics play a significant role in development planning. Indeed, your institution is engaged in this duty on a daily basis. What are some of the challenges you encounter, especially among ordinary citizens, in collecting the relevant data?

Komen Moris, Eldoret

The main challenges faced by KNBS include low-response rates and some inaccuracies of provided responses when we are undertaking statistical programmes.

We call upon businesses and households, which include individuals, to always provide accurate and timely information whenever called upon.

We assure the confidentiality of the statistics presented to us as provided for in the Statistics Act, 2006.

7. How is KNBS prepared to shield this all-important exercise from political manipulation given the huge interest politicians will have because the results will determine division of revenue among county governments and even have a greater impact on the scheduled boundaries review by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC)?

Komen Moris, Eldoret

The KNBS implements its mandate in an independent manner, free from political interference as governed by the UN Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics.

The Bureau employs best practices and international standards, professionalism, accountability and transparency in all its operations.

8. In Kenya, politics is done and elections won on tribal arithmetic. And it is alleged that, often, census data is manipulated to suggest that certain communities are numerically dominant. This is then followed, as was the case in the lead-up to 2013, by the creation of more constituencies in these areas. What do you think of this charge?

Mulang'o Baraza, Nairobi

Information on tribe or ethnicity and nationality collected during censuses has both statistical and cultural value.

The data is mainly used to assess the socio-economic characteristics of people of different backgrounds and in the identification of minority groups.

Those who do not wish to state their ethnicity usually have an option of stating that their ethnicity is “Kenyan”. We are not aware that census data is manipulated in any way.

However, as a statistical agency, we are entrusted with the role of commenting on the misuse of official statistics in the event this happens and is brought to our attention.

9. Like many other assignments undertaken by KNBS, the ongoing recruitment of the temporary staff for the census has so far been largely above board. However, some of the candidates who attended the interviews were shocked the KNBS could not print the question papers. Instead, those who were administering the interviews were reading the questions from their personal mobile phones which made the interviews lack the seriousness one would have expected. What do you say about this?

Dynesius Nyangau

A decision was taken by KNBS not to print the interview questions.

This was not only to safeguard the environment, but also to ensure that the questions are not leaked out through the social media.

The questions were intended to reach all interviewees at the same time for fairness. Questions protected by passwords were sent electronically to the various centres and password information issued only minutes to commencement of interviews.

There were several sets of questions for different areas and counties were grouped in an unpredictable manner to avoid chances of sharing questions even with a neighbouring county.

Further, a separate exam was administered in areas where there were delays.

10. Poor coordination and planning was the hallmark of previous censuses. How differently are you approaching the exercise this year so that you come up with credible, verifiable and acceptable data?

Dan Murugu, Nakuru

It is not true that previous censuses were poorly coordinated and planned. In fact, during the last census, Kenya received an award for releasing the preliminary results in record time (within one year).

Since we have embraced latest technology in the 2019 census undertaking, it is expected that preliminary results will be released by December 2019.

The basic reports of the census are expected to be released within six months, while the detailed analytical reports will be released within one year after the census enumeration.

11. Is there possibility that in future technology can be employed to cut on costs of conducting physical counts of households?

Dan Murugu, Nakuru

The KNBS has continued to embrace technology over time. We will continue to do so.

One area that will reduce the cost of the next census in 2029 will be the cartographic work, which will only update the good data that has been generated now.

However, electronic questionnaires will still be administered to take care of the need to address factors such as increase in literacy level, internet penetration rate, and increased use of technology by the general public.

12. What is the value of census to an ordinary mwananchi who is struggling to put food on the table, let alone pay school fees for his/her children? We have been told the census results are for planning but even after the exercise, life does not change for these Kenyans.

Peter Mburu

Census provides comprehensive and disaggregated information.

Census data is important in guiding evidence-based decision-making and monitoring progress made on the various development initiatives.

The census data when analysed gives an accurate picture of how many people are living in the country, the distribution across every administrative level and their living conditions, as well as access to basic services.

Other uses include resource allocation, delineation of boundaries, research and creation of household-based frames for future statistical surveys.

13. Is there a real need for census given that we recently had Huduma Namba registration? Isn’t it possible to gather population data from the exercise if only to save on cost?

Chris Maina, Nairobi

The Huduma Namba registration and census processes are complementary. They however serve different purposes.

A population census is the process of enumerating all people within the boundaries of a country at a specified time.

The process involves collecting, compiling, evaluating, analysing, and publishing demographic, social, and/or economic data.

The target population includes persons resident in conventional households, outdoor sleepers, persons on transit, individuals in hotels and lodges, and in institutions such as hospitals and prisons.

Some of the key variables include fertility and mortality rates, migration, housing characteristics, ownership of assets and use of information technology.

All the information generated from census modules will generate many characteristics of the population that are key in planning.