Rwanda readies for fifth population census

Friday August 12 2022
Rwanda census.

Rwanda's National Population and Housing Census is expected to kick off on August 16 and run until August 30, 2022. PHOTO | COURTESY

By Ange Iliza

Rwanda is set to embark on a population census, as the government seeks fresh data to facilitate the planning and distribution of resources.

The National Population and Housing Census is expected to kick off on August 16 and run until August 30.

This will be the country’s fifth national census, with others held in 1979, 1989, 2002 and 2012.

The government says it has invested sufficient resources to ensure the quality of the data. For instance, the exercise, which used to last two-three months will now take two weeks.

Over $30 million has been invested in the census, from around $16 million invested in the last census.

“This shows how the government of Rwanda values statistics because we are launching a countrywide census in the middle of the financial crisis. There are other countries in Africa that have had to postpone or gather funds from donors to do their censuses,” Ivan Murenzi, Deputy Director General of the National Institute of Statistics (NISR) of Rwanda, told The EastAfrican.


Despite financial constraints, the country has invested twice the amount of money and workforce invested in the last census in 2012 to ensure the quality of data provided.

While the previous censuses used paper-based questionnaires, the upcoming census will use technology in almost all operations—mapping, training of enumerators, data collection, field monitoring, and data processing. 

The census is majorly funded by the government of Rwanda, with input from other funding partners such as the United Nations Population Fund, World Bank, European Union, and Global Fund.

Mr Murenzi said that due to financial constraints, the institute has had to opt for the least costly options such as employing teachers to do the work.

According to NISR, the census will cover the entire country and will employ 28,000 people, 90 percent of whom are teachers, and the rest are youth volunteers. The results will be published in November, three months after the exercise is concluded. It used to take two years for the results to be published because data record and analysis was done manually.

The margin of error for some recent data was below 3 percent which gives over 95 percent confidence.

More than 50 reports from the census will be published, according to Dr Yusuf Murangwa, the Director General of NISR. There will be a report for each of the 30 districts, a report on housing, employment, family planning, education, and other key factors. Only 10 reports were published from the fourth census.

According to Mr Murenzi, the institute has consulted with different government stakeholders and civil society on what questions need to be included in this year’s census. The new questions will collect data on internet accessibility, connectivity, access to smart or featured phones, and access to financial services.

Asked if the census will collect data about the LGBTQI community, who have been advocating for inclusion in the census, Mr Murenzi said that the issue did not stand out among the most important.

Some LGBTQI community members had suggested that the national census collect data on sexual and gender minorities and capture their unique challenges and realities. They say decision-makers largely operate without data due to a lack of robust data on the size of the LGBTQI population at a national and local level.

“We debate on what goes on the questionnaire or not. This particular topic did not stand out as something that most Rwandans would find relatable. It takes the utmost importance for a question to be featured on the census questionnaires. Maybe the future census will feature this,” Mr Murenzi said.

In past censuses, enumerators have faced resistance especially fuelled by religious beliefs. In partnership with local government and religious leaders, Mr Murenzi said that NISR has been conducting awareness campaigns to minimise resistance by the public against the census.