Since the provisional result of the 2015 Population and Housing Census was launched by President Ernest Bai Koroma on 31 March, many eyebrows have been raised as to the validity and reliability of the figures, not least by the main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), who have challenged Statistics Sierra Leone to avail them with the post-census enumeration technical report.
The overarching goal of Census 2015 was to contribute to improving the quality of lives of the people of Sierra Leone through the provision of relevant, reliable and timely data and information for development planning, policy formulation and services, as well as for the purpose of monitoring and evaluating development programmes and plans.
However, the contentious result, reported to be 7,075,641, faces credibility and reliability challenges, partly because of alleged faulty cartographic mapping and recruitment of the wrong people.
As if that is not enough, figures provided by Statistics Sierra Leone do not correspond with projection by the Agenda for Prosperity, the development blueprint of the government.
The Agenda for Prosperity document which was launched in 2013 to guide the development trajectory until 2017, projected the country’s population growth rate at 1.3% by 2017, given certain benchmarks.
It underscores that Sierra Leone’s population doubled from around 2.5 million in 1970 to 5 million in 2004 and that it is estimated to have reached 6.4 million by 2012, and projected to grow moderately to 6.5 million by 2018 with a growth rate peaked at 2.3% per year in 1985, but had declined to 1.8% in 2004.
“Population growth has strong linkages with sustainable social and economic development. Rapid population growth and increased densities can cause environmental setbacks, including deforestation due to expansion of agriculture and other livelihood activities. Population pressure results to invulnerability especially of poor people to storms, floods, fires, epidemics, and other natural disasters.
“Economic growth in any economy could therefore be thwarted by high population growth, which increases the quantity of labour without necessarily improving its quality. On the other hand, proper population planning and management, with reduced densities, improves access to quality basic services and amenities; enhances economic parameters such as investment, consumption, savings, and productivity; and reduces environmental damage, favouring good health, proper nutrition, adequate education, good quality labour, and better productivity: all key contributors to poverty,” according to the Agenda for Prosperity document.
But the provisional result of the 2015 Population and Housing Census put the country’s population at 7,075,641, with a population growth rate above 2%, in sharp contradiction of the initial projection of growth rate at 1.3% by 2017.
According to Pillar 3 of the Agenda for Prosperity, accelerating human development within the timeline of implementation is fundamentaltoimprovinglivingconditions,increasingnationalprosperity,andbuildinginternationalcompetitivenessinanequitableenvironment.
“The goals of this Pillar are to develop human capital, to empower people through the provision of human services to reduce poverty, and to accelerate the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals(MDGs). The focus is on strategies that will accelerate human development in Sierra Leone, through population policy, improving quality of and access to education, providing extensive health services, controlling HIV/AIDS, providing safe water and improved sanitation, and main streaming gender parity,” notes the document.
Director of Demographic and Social Statistic Division at Statistics Sierra Leone, Philip Bangura, explained that the contradiction was due to the fact that the demographic health survey, which informed the Agenda, targeted 435 enumeration areas across the country, carving 13,600 households, in a random sample survey.
“It was a random sample using probability proposition to size, which means that certain enumeration areas have more to cover based on the number of people in the area. This was done so that we can actually know the population distribution, including the fertility, that is the number of children a woman should have, migration, among other things.” he said, adding that after the 2004 Population and Housing Census, the country’s population was projected to increase because a good number of Sierra Leoneans were out of the country as a result of the war, while serious migration had occurred among the population from one location to another.