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GRAPH from the Ministry of National Development Planning showing how Zambia’s population has been growing over the years.

Help Zambia conduct population census

ZAMBIA last held its census of population and housing nearly 12 years ago when it had 13,092,666 inhabitants, who included 6,454,647 males and 6,638,019 females. During the 2010 census, demographic data was collected from 13 million people and 3.2 million households countrywide.   This exercise was conducted from October 16 to November 15, and all parts of the country were covered by November 30. It was the fifth population and housing census for Zambia since its independence in 1964, with the previous censuses having been done in 1969, 1980, 1990, and 2000.
The 2010 exercise was financed by United Nations Population Fund, United Kingdom AID, United States Agency for International Development, and African Development Bank, which contributed close to 60 percent of the total expenditure. The rest of the money was from the national treasury. After this census, Zambia was supposed to have another such exercise in 2020. However, this could not be undertaken principally due to the outbreak of COVID-19, which restricted many human activities. The exercise was initially scheduled for August 2020 when there was a budget of K758 million, but it was postponed to last November when the budget rose to K897 million. Unfortunately, the exercise was again deferred to this year and is scheduled to take place between August 18 and September 14 at a cost of K967 million. Of this budget, Government has provided K590 million and is expected to add K68 million, leaving a financing gap of K309 million. It is this deficit which could again delay the census of population and housing if stakeholders, particularly our all-weather cooperating partners, do not come on board to help Zambia undertake the exercise.  During a virtual meeting with cooperating partners on resource mobilisation for the census yesterday, Minister of Finance and National Planning Situmbeko Musokotwane implored stakeholders to help fill the financing gap. “I now appeal for your financial and technical support in this important national undertaking, which affects all of us here in Zambia and beyond. “As you know, we only have a month before the census enumeration commences and your support is urgently and highly needed,” Dr Musokotwane said. We appeal to our cooperating partners to help Zambia financially and technically so that we undertake the protracted exercise and enable Government to effectively plan for development. With a population poll, Government is able to know the level of unemployment in a particular area, and the information obtained through this exercise helps in planning for the empowerment of citizens. This undertaking also informs us about who we are and where we are going as a country, and allows communities to determine where to build structures like houses, schools, hospitals, and supermarkets.
In the absence of a population survey, it is difficult for Government to properly provide for citizens in terms of education, health, and social protection for the vulnerable. We echo Dr Musokotwane’s clarion call to our cooperating partners to help Zambia conduct the census of population and housing so that service delivery to citizens is not undesirably affected. This is because Government does not know the precise number of people it currently budgets for in terms of service delivery but rather anchors its plans on estimates. Moreover, Zambia is said to have a housing deficit of around two million, but again this is based on figures of the 2010 census. This, of course, is inaccurate because the population of Zambia is believed to be around 19.24 million, up from 18.67 million a year ago.
Zambia cannot afford to further delay the population and housing census because this could adversely affect national development.