Whither Indirect Demographic Estimation Methods: Africa’s Data Revolution Coming of Age

Pali Lehohla, Statistics South Africa

Up until now, any academic or applied research work on the demography of Africa in general and sub-Saharan Africa specifically started with a litany of statements “apologising” for Africa’s dearth of data in general and demographic information in particular. Once the narrative on the paucity of data is dispensed with then a battery of indirect techniques are applied to the chequered and often infrequent census data in order to derive some estimates of mortality, fertility and life expectancy. This then forms the basis of population projections. Migration studies both internal and international remained a near impossible task to undertake. This sorry state of data has been steadily changing as African statisticians turned a new page in the history of data and information. Spurred in part by the Millennium Development Goals, (MDGs), African statisticians resolved that Africa shall count in the 2010 Round of Population and Housing Census. And according to evidence this is a commitment which African statisticians delivered handsomely. Encouraged by this landmark achievement, African statisticians have now embarked on a pilgrimage of civil registration and vital statistics. Embarked upon towards the end of the MDGs, this journey holds promise to quench Africa’s thirst for development data. This initiative has inspired Asia to follow suit. Coupled with the wave of democratic change, an advent of electronic sensors, a regular census of the population, a promise of a functional civil registration and a vital statistics drive, Africa’s own data revolution has been defined and just begun. What then is the fate of indirect demographic techniques?

Presented in Session 170: Demography, Demographers, and the Data Revolution