President Cyril Ramaphosa commended Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) for having undertaken the “mammoth” task of Census 2022 with such distinction, despite the many challenges they faced in collecting the data.
Census 2022—the fourth census taken since the advent of democracy in South Africa—was officially handed over to President Ramaphosa at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Tuesday.
Stats SA began their work in 2018 but were soon faced with an international health risk that resulted in restricted movements as the Covid-19 pandemic reached South Africa’s shores in early 2020.
In the course of its data collection, Stats SA’s work was again hindered when the “disruptive” local government elections took place, the deadly July 2021 unrest in the most populous provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, and then the devastating floods that hit KZN, the Eastern Cape, and the North West.
Ramaphosa commended Stats SA for swiftly implementing various data collection methods, including computer-assisted telephonic interviews and online self-enumeration options.
This forward-thinking approach culminated in the complete digitisation of the national census process, enabling the census to be conducted just four months after its initially planned date in October 2021, he said.
“A census is one of the most complex exercises a nation can undertake. It involves years of preparation and planning.
“It is a tough task for enumerators, who have to traverse the country, counting people in households, hospitals, prisons, and other institutions, the homeless, and people in transit at our borders. A census involves collating, aggregating, and publishing complex demographic, health, economic, and sociological data sets,” he said.
He said the data contained in a census was one of the most crucial planning tools in government at all levels, but it was also important for all other role players.
It informed the planning, budgeting, and policy-making work of government at the most fundamental level, he said.
He added that it would also inform how the budget should be structured and how the resources should be distributed.
“Policy making that is not informed by accurate data can result in the inefficiencies of allocated resources, poorly planned programmes, and poor financial allocation and management. Unless we are able to see the bigger picture, we are unable to forecast.
"Census 2022 gives us the information we need to implement government’s programme of action in a targeted, evidence-driven manner,“ he said.
Ramaphosa further said that the results presented at the Union Buildings underscored the urgency with which government needed to work towards meeting the aspirations of the National Development Plan and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
“Census 2022 has told us where we are making progress, but it has also laid bare the challenges that remain. Census 2022 will be an invaluable tool in meeting those challenges,” he said.