.... Liberia’s Digital Census is on track to enable the country to address challenges and take advantage of the benefit of the demographic dividend
David Z. Logan
Liberia has been planning feverishly for its next round of decennial census since the year 2020. It has been an on and off process. Thankfully, the necessary legislative approvals have been obtained and partners have also pledged their support to conduct the exercise.
The census enumeration planned for kick off in October 2022, have had to be put forward to November 22, due to a bungled recruitment process. Full assurance has again been given for the census by the Government of Liberia and the international partners.
The citizens are also full of expectancy given the importance of the data to be obtained to plan for and track the various development outcomes. According to the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS), a total of 13,845 Enumeration Areas have been delineated throughout the country, based on an earlier census mapping process conducted from May 2021 to February 2022.
According to the United Nations Population Division, censuses are important national undertakings to assess the true size of a nation’s population, its growth rate and distribution, the education levels and determine other social-economic development indicators. The importance of census cannot therefore be overestimated. National census taking is at the center of every planning activity and no meaningful development planning activity can be conducted without taking into account population census data.
Liberia’s most recent census was completed in 2008 and registered a total count of 3.5 million. In addition to the 2008 census, three national censuses have been conducted beginning in 1962 (1.1m), 1974 (1.5m) and 1984 (2.1m) respectively. The country therefore has reasonable experience in conducting censuses.
In order to tap into the enabling digital revolution, census 2022 will deploy new smart gadgets to collect, store and transmit the data to be collected from the field in an efficient and timely manner. This will ensure quicker data cleaning, tabulation and analysis.
With the current projected 2022 population of about 5.2 million, Liberia’s current reality of rapid population growth of 2.6 percent versus economic growth of 2.1 percent exposes the country to several challenges. Among these challenges are inadequate food production, infrastructure and social services (schools and health facilities) which are not keeping pace with the growth in our population numbers.
There is the urgent reason to continue the efforts geared towards reducing population growth. The birthing of many children by many individuals and families, especially our young females for cultural, religious, economic purposes or as a defense for old age, is evidently denying the country of taking advantage of the demographic dividend.
Liberia must re-imagine the future by initiating robust ideas to ensure fewer children in our homes and communities. Families and young people, have to be educated on the benefits of delaying early child birth through family planning and ensure that they are prepared to provide for, and have the economic means to cater for the needs of the children, once they start coming.
With the new technology adopted for the conduct of the current 2022 census, it is the expectation that the entire census timeline will be completed early. And with the census results in hand in the next couple of months ahead, Liberia must begin to plan how to tap into the benefits of demographic dividend.
Young people are the future of Liberia. The demographic dividend refers to the accelerated economic growth that begins with changes in the age structure of a country’s population as it moves through the demographic transition from high to low birth and death rates.
With fewer young people relative to the population of working-age adults, and with the successful implementation of key national policies over the long term, a country may reap many rewards from its demographic dividend. The demographic dividend does not happen automatically in the absence of the needed population, social and economic policies.
Countries that have earned a demographic dividend have invested in human capital (health and education), implemented sound economic and governance policies, and sustained the political commitment necessary to make the most of the opportunity.
The new 2022 census results will provide information to show Liberia’s status and determine the needed policy actions. Already, with the current cost of living crisis arising from high food, fuel cost, and high inflation will have to be addressed quickly in order to provide the policy space, for additional measures using the new data from the census.
The census will therefore enable government, particularly the economic, health and educational planners get the needed data to sharpen interventions to spur growth, ensure improved access to health and reproductive services and enhance skills development for young people.
Given the critical role of accurate data collection, the LISGIS team should work to ensure the enumerators are adequately trained, motivated and provided the needed logistics to carry out the field exercise.
Additionally, adequate publicity should also be given to the entire data collection process in order that the nation is fully covered. The new digital platform being provided should make the process easier along the entire value chain of the census process, from data capture, cleaning, processing, analysis and the eventual dissemination of the results.
The Author: David Logan is a Policy Analyst. In the past, he has worked at the University of Liberia and the Ministry of Health in Monrovia.
Editor’s note: The views expressed in this commentary are solely of the author and do not necessarily represent that of the Daily Observer newspaper.