What is the Purpose of the Population Census in Uganda?

Every decade, Uganda takes stock of its population, investing significant resources in the nationwide census. From its inception, the census has symbolized more than mere headcounts; it represents the promise of informed governance and equitable resource distribution. Yet, amidst the flurry of data collection, one can’t help but question: are these efforts truly yielding tangible benefits? Do they lead to optimized resource allocation, informed policy decisions, and effective progress monitoring? As Uganda prepares for the 2024 Census this week, skepticism looms. Have the outcomes matched the lofty goals? Are resources truly reaching those in need?

Let’s explore the depths of this national exercise, uncover its impact, and assess whether it serves the people or represents government expenses.

The Early Beginnings: Colonial-Era Censuses.
The Early Beginnings: Colonial-Era Censuses. The first population counts in Uganda were carried out during colonial times. Focused on headcounts, the 1911, 1921, and 1931 population censuses mainly distinguished African from non-African populations. They lacked the comprehensive data collection seen in later censuses in terms of age, sex, ethnicity, and occupation. Even later, in 1948 and 1959 when the censuses became more detailed, their primary purpose was to aid and support colonial administration rather than national development plans.

Post-Independence Censuses.
Following independence, Uganda conducted its first National Census in 1969 aimed at collecting data for economic planning and social development. However, political instabilities in 1969 and 1980 hampered the effectiveness of this census, though it marked a significant turning point. The 1991 census further paved the way for population censuses. It was carried out during a period of relative peace and stability, with the newly established Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) overseeing the activity.

The Modern Era:
The 21st century has witnessed a renewed emphasis on population data for development. The 2002 census, considered the most comprehensive to date, included data on housing conditions, educational levels, and access to basic amenities. This approach was instrumental in formulating poverty reduction strategies and monitoring progress towards the establishment by the United Nations to facilitate international collaboration towards common goals such as poverty and hunger reduction, combating HIV/AIDS and Malaria, and ensuring environmental stability.

The most recent national census, conducted in 2014, continued the trend of collecting detailed socio-economic data under the theme “Counting for Planning and Improved Service Delivery”. It underscored the pivotal role of census data in ensuring the proper allocation of resources for education, healthcare, and infrastructural development.

Impact of population censuses

     1. Resource Allocation.
The impact of a population census is often evaluated in terms of service delivery to the people, specifically, the accuracy with which these social services are provided. However, a crucial question remains: how effectively do these censuses translate into benefits for the Ugandan populace? Resource allocation based on census data ideally should lead to targeted investment in education, healthcare, and infrastructure, aligning with population distribution and need. However, regardless of the initiative, this systematic distribution of resources has been hindered by financial limitations within the national budget and documented cases of misuse of funds, significantly impeding progress. For instance, the Lubowa Hospital project serves as an example of good intentions gone awry. Despite the undeniable need for better health facilities, progress on the project has been shrouded in mystery and unaccountability. This raises concerns about whether the significant resources invested in conducting censuses and post-census development schemes are being fully utilized.

     2. Policy Formulation.
While censuses primarily focus on counting people, they also account for their living conditions. Census data facilitates policy decisions on issues such as poverty reduction, employment generation, and social welfare programs. Uganda is no stranger to this process. In fact, Uganda has witnessed the implementation of numerous such policies with the promise of a better, more financially stable, and independent society. Initiatives like “emyooga” and Parish models have all come to light; however, something seems amiss. Concerns persist regarding the effectiveness of these initiatives. News reports of missing emyooga funds and the lack of accountability cast doubt on whether these policies truly address the needs identified through census data.

     3. Monitoring Progress.
Censuses help track progress by providing benchmarks for measuring improvements in living standards and access to services. Census data allows for progress toward national development. Though attributing specific developments solely to the previous 2014 census is rather challenging, Uganda has undeniably seen some advancements since the last population census. Road construction projects, such as the Northern bypass extension, and the new Entebbe Express Highway have been completed, and educational reforms have been put in place.

While challenges do exist in Uganda as far as working for the people is concerned, population censuses remain a valuable tool for national development when effectively implemented.

Through increased transparency, public participation, and robust monitoring mechanisms, the success of future censuses relies not only on citizen participation but also on ensuring the collected data translates into tangible improvements in the lives of the common people.

Leave a comment

Picture of Andronicus E. Muwanguzi
Andronicus E. Muwanguzi
Andronicus Enoch Muwanguzi is a passionate Ugandan writer, novelist, poet and web-developer. He spends his free time reading, writing and jamming to Spotify music.
Scroll to Top