Was ZIMSTAT well-funded for the 2022 Census?

Chris Mahove

Questions have been raised on whether the 2022 Census was sufficiently funded amid revelations the Zimbabwe Statistics Agency (ZIMSTAT) failed to provide adequate tablets for supervisors and enumerators, casting doubts on the reliability of the census results.

 This year’s census, which kicked off on April 21 and runs until April 30, is the fifth since Independence, and the first in the history of the country to be conducted digitally.

Insiders told Mail & Review that most of the officials have not been provided with the Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) gadgets, throwing the whole process into disarray.

“There is confusion in the whole process; there are no tablets for both supervisors and enumerators, there are no ID cards and there are very limited vehicles which makes the process defective,” one of the supervisors said.

Observers were now questioning whether government was able to provide enough money needed for the exercise.

Economist Collen Jonasi said an exercise such as the census was crucial in the formulation of policies by the government and there was need to ensure that those carrying it out were well equipped and well-motivated.

 He said the census was supposed to enable the government to make plans for the next ten years based on the statistics gathered and also make projections as far as population growth is concerned, noting it would be difficult to come up with sound policies using distorted information.

“Therefore collecting information that is compromised because the enumerators do not have the requisite tools to use for the job definitely sets a very bad precedence. We are not going to have correct data collected and once that the data that we have is not reliable that means we are walking into a disastrous and dark 10 year period in which we are going to base our policies on totally wrong information in as far as the population is concerned,” he said

However, in a census update issued last week, Finance and Economic Development Minister Mthuli Ncube insisted that all was well and preparations for the exercise had been successful and government had provided funds for the required materials.

“Government capacitated ZIMSTAT through procurement of vehicles and tablets for use during census data collection, that way making ZIMSTAT more prepared to undertake the 2022 Population and Housing census as planned,” he said.

There had been concerns over the funding of the census exercise, with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFP) noting donor fatigue was likely to present challenges as the Government of Zimbabwe, which had pledged to cover 83 per cent of the total budget, had to census budget at a minimum.

“As per proposed budget by source of funds government of Zimbabwe has committed to meet 83% of census budget. UNPFA and government counts on development partners’ generous financial and material assistance to cover the funding gap of US$14.8 million,” the UNFPA said in March 2020.

It warned that foreign exchange shortages and macro-economic instability would result in inadequate government funding for pre-enumeration activities, thereby affecting the efficient implementation of the census.

The UNDP noted that the government of Zimbabwe, although committed to provide funds for the population census, was certainly not able to raise the full US$85 451 099 million required.

Political questions have also been raised, with critics warning the involvement of the military and some party youths as enumerators could be a plot to manipulate the census figures as the country braces for the watershed 2023 general elections.

The census figures will be used for the delimitation of electoral constituencies and there are fears of undercounts and over-counts in some strategic areas for political expedience.

A census is also important for economic planning, and it does more than count the population. It collects information on their ages, educational level, marital status, access to health services and a lot of other factors that government needs to take into account to produce relevant policies. Our present situation forces us to focus first of all on the voters’ roll, which only requires us to know the number and ages of people in the country.

The current population of Zimbabwe is 15,284,801 as of April 20, 2022, based on interpolation of the latest United Nations data. The population of Zimbabwe is projected at 15,092,171 or 15.092 million as of July 1, 2021. The total population in Zimbabwe is projected at 14,862,924 or 14.863 million people for the year 2020. Zimbabwe ranks number 74th in the world by population in the list of 235 countries/territories. Zimbabwe is ranked 26th among 58 countries in Africa.

Zimbabwe’s population is expected to increase year by year and is projected to reach 17.60 million in 2030 and increase further to 23.95 million in 2050 and 30.97 million by 2100. Zimbabwe accounts for 0.19 percent of the world population.

 However, its global share increased by 0.19% in 2013 and is projected to increase by 0.28% by 2100.

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