n Institute of African Studies Research Review - Challenges of population census enumeration in Africa : an illustration with the age-sex data of the Gambia

Volume 20, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0855-4412



A salient feature of the current literature on development planning in Africa is the growing recognition of the cardinal role of population as a factor in determining the level, pattern and rate of development. In this respect, what is most significant is the recognition accorded to the inter-relationships between population variables and other economic, social and cultural factors. A worthy and desirable goal of all economic and social development is the improvement of the standard of living of the population. It is therefore crucial that development planning should take into account the nature, evolution and characteristics of the population to be catered for in the plan period. An indispensable way of doing this is through empirical evidence emanating from official census enumeration. Biased or defective census data would lead to wrong decisions and future estimates and projections based on defective data will mislead planners and administrators. <br>As an illustration and based on data availability, an attempt was made to assess the quality of the age-sex data in the 1973-1993 censuses of The Gambia. Focus was on the levels and trends of error over the twenty-year period. In order to provide a clear picture of the extent of distortion which might have occurred, the data presented in single years of age were first evaluated by using the Whipple's, Myers', and Bachi's indexes. The Whipple's index has remained at over 230, while the Myers' and Bachi's indexes have fluctuated around 44 and 29, respectively, over the period. The results show that there were biases from inaccurate age reporting and recording between1973 and 1993. A closer examination of the age distribution was carried out by trying to curtail part of the erratic fluctuations in the single-year age distribution through grouping the data in quinary ages, and applying the United Nation age-sex accuracy index. This index yielded 92 in 1973, 87 in 1983, and 76 in 1993, indicating that the quality of the age-sex data is still poor in The Gambia. However, age data for males are more accurate than for females. <br>The findings are not peculiar to Gambia. Adequate statistical data for planning is lacking for many countries in Africa. In these countries, a significant amount of collected data lags unduly behind and the universe coverage is generally incomplete. And yet the countries of the region require reasonably accurate statistical information for effective development planning especially of basic societal needs in all sectors: education, employment, health, housing, transportation, and agriculture and food. The planning is essentially predicated on the collection of accurate age and sex data. Uptake in educational levels is likely to reduce age misstatement in the region.

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