The government recently launched a national population and housing census that is set to last for two years. This is a significant milestone as the last time Somalia conducted a formal census was way back in 1975, with the second census in 1984 remaining unpublished.
According to Dr. Abdi Ali Ige, head of the Somali Population and Housing Census, the data collectors will be following a standard methodology used internationally to conduct the count. The census will use a combination of de facto and de jure methodology, counting the population found on the day of the counting, and relying on people’s self-reported locations for nomadic and homeless populations.
“We are using combination of de facto and de jure methodology. That means we are counting population we find on the day of the counting,” he said. “[For] the nomadic population and the homeless, we are using de jure methodology. That means we are asking people where they usually live — it’s combination of two methodologies because Somalis have different population strata.”Dr. Abdi Ali Ige, head of the Somali Population and Housing Census.
The census will commence in urban areas before moving on to the rural and nomadic populations, with mapping using satellite imagery of towns, cities, villages, and rural areas taking approximately eight months. Moreover, before the counting starts in October 2024, there will be training for the 30,000 data collectors. “The census will be concluded from two weeks to one month … every house will be knocked,” Dr. Ige said.
Despite the challenges faced by the government in terms of displacement due to drought and security concerns in areas controlled by al-Shabaab militants, Ige is confident that the census will be a success with support from the United Nations Population Fund(UNPFA) and the latest technology. He states that his team will employ the use of satellite imagery to target temporary nomadic settlements. “Every village or district has a temporary nomadic settlement,” he said, explaining that the timing of the census will coincide with autumn rains when nomadic communities return to their places of origin.
On their end, UNPFA says the team conducting the census will include demographers, statisticians, GIS (geographic information system) analysis, and IT and communications specialists from both UNFPA and the National Bureau of Statistics.
“We are going to be delivering a modern census for Somalia through modern technology,” says Niyi Ojuolape, UNFPA country representative, “We plan to have modern data security; we are also going to be processing the data that we will be using through the latest technology.”
The data from the census is expected to help the government plan and implement policies and programs that meet the needs of its citizens.
“Generation of data and utilization of data is at the heart of governance,” said Salah Jama, the deputy prime minister, who launched the census. “It is paramount for good government. It is paramount for development gains.
Furthermore, this critical exercise comes ahead of the 2026 elections, with Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud promising to prepare for direct elections during a televised Mogadishu town hall meeting on Monday, May 1.