“Only a population census can give accurate and reliable data and information on the population for each geographic level of the African countries. Alternative methods are not feasible and other sources are not available in sub-Sahara Africa, and cannot be anticipated in the near future. The census is the unique source of information for data on specific populations and sub-populations poorly represented in household surveys.” (Dackam, 2003 : 96).
At the end of the 1960s, conscious of the lack of basic information available on the populations living in the vast majority of the newly independent Sub-Saharan countries in Africa, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) set up the African Census Analysis Project (ACAP), which empowered some countries on the African continent to take their first general census. Since the middle of the 70s, some of those countries had already started to gather information on their populations and already did more than 4 or 5 censuses. If we can be satisfied of this newly situation, two important topics need to be address: 1) what could be done to safeguarding this African demographic heritage and 2) how can we promote the use of the rich data produce from those censuses.
Population census in Africa provide basic information used to develop all public policies, but one problem is that the rapid burst of knowledge of African populations was not accompanied by any real effort to preserve the information collected. Computerized data storage technologies have evolved at such a rapid pace that, quite often, with no measures having been adopted to transfer the data of the 70s and 80s censuses to new storage media, the data have now been completely lost, either because the media once used to store such information is now obsolete or because they have simply disappeared. It is urgent and crucial to protect the demographic heritage of African population censuses.
Otherwise, considering the important cost of a census and the high quality of the information collected on population issues, the underused of those data, compared to surveys and others sources, is questionable. The technologic innovation, on census data collection or analysis, opening wide opportunities for scientific purposes but scholar networks and academic institutions seem not really involve in those topics.
The aim of this Panel is to support activities and exchange between African Scientific networks and National Statistical Institutions to promote saving African demographic heritage and the use of Census data in Africa.
Declaration Regarding the Recognition, Protection and Development of African Censuses
On African Demographic Heritage