Census results disputed but uncontested is Tyranny of Numbers

Urban areas grow phenomenally, Nairobi records 4.391 million people.

In Summary

• Current data available is nominal concerning numbers of males, females and intersex persons in all 47 counties. Still waiting for analysis on ethnicity.

•  Populations in counties within the Mt Kenya region have more people cumulatively, with Kiambu having a population of 2.42 million compared to coastal Lamu’s 143,920.

Treasury CS Ukur Yatani receives the 2019 Census results from President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House, Nairobi, on November 4.
THE NUMBERS: Treasury CS Ukur Yatani receives the 2019 Census results from President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House, Nairobi, on November 4.
Image: PSCU

This week has witnessed a lot of contestations about the 2019 Census.results.

The results have been remarkable since the nominal figures have come barely two months after the exercise. This is record time considering that KNBS had promised to do so in three months. It is also the first time a census has used technology for cartographic mapping, with more than 98 per cent household coverage.

The use of locally assembled tablets is another milestone. Further, the transmission of the data was in real-time, hence, reduced data entry errors from manual forms.


However, there were challenges since confidential information couldn’t have been properly conveyed, declared or verified by the respondents since it was the enumerators who were filling in the forms.

The current data available is nominal with regards to the number of males, females and intersex persons in all the 47 counties. Further analysis of the same in subcounties and other political units is yet to be conducted. 

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics still needs to disaggregate the data according to age, disability, ethnicity, levels of education, economic activity/status, mobile telephony and internet access etc.

In general terms, the population has grown from 37.7 million in 2009 to 47.6 million this year. This means we are giving birth to 9.9 million babies, averaging slightly less than a million babies per year.

It also shows a slight decline compared to 10 years ago, by about 0.1 per cent, accounting for the intercensal growth rate decline from 2.9 per cent in 2009 to 2.2 per cent this year.  Moreover, the census results have seen a decline in the average household size from 4.2 in 2009 to 3.9 in 2019, accounting for the reduced number of babies averaging about 100,000.

The total enumerated population was 47,564,296 of which 23,548,056 were males and 24,014,716 were females. An interesting dynamic about the results is that contrary to popular belief that there is one male to about five or six females; women are more by only about 466,660, accounting for 50.5 per cent of the total population.

It thus indicates that more females are available to some men as compared to others, a rather undemocratic phenomenon. The data seems to suggest that as a matter of fact, both sexes aren’t as monogamous as we imagine.


Further, for the first time in the history of this country, intersex persons are 1,524. These are people born with sex characteristics that don’t fit the typical binary definitions of male and female. Recording this segment of the population is a milestone since we are the first country in Africa to do so.

Further, we are also the first in the world to record such a great number after Australia, which only captured 40 of its citizens against an estimate of 420,000.

Contrary to popular belief, intersex persons registered in all counties, with Nairobi leading with 235 persons, while Samburu had two. Enumerators were the ones who filled in the digital forms, hence, reduced privacy and opportunity to self-mark, due to stigma and prejudice coupled with low levels of awareness.

We recently celebrated World Intersex Remembrance Day and despite many of them showing up, it was difficult for most of them to stand up and self-identify in public when called upon to do so.

This means we need to do a lot more to overcome stigma and discrimination. As a champion for this cause and one who played a critical role in realising this milestone, it doesn’t matter to me if it's one intersex person or one million. I see it as a big, big win as it means that intersex people are getting recognised and their rights must be safeguarded — just like those of all other minorities in this country.

Finally, there is the politics of numbers. To begin with, the 2019 Census results confirmed that the theory of tyranny of numbers remains as populations in counties within the Mt Kenya region have more people cumulatively, with Kiambu having a population of 2.42 million compared to Lamu’s 143,920.

It is also true that urban areas have recorded phenomenal growth, with cities-towns such as Nairobi recording 4.391 million people. Nakuru has 2.16, Kakamega 1.87, Bungoma 1.67 and Machakos 1.42, meaning there is a lot of rural-urban migration.

It is also true that counties such as Mandera have witnessed a sharp decline in their population by 15 per cent due to inflated figures in 2009. Curiously, Garissa and Wajir counties deviate from the national average by having a disproportionate number of males to females, with Garissa having 76,631 more males than females, and in Wajir, 49,534. This is a huge anomaly.

The 2019 Census results will inform many things going forward including the BBI report, boundaries and of course 2022 politics. But do we have measures to protect this all too important data especially within this 4th industrial revolution of big data, algorithms and artificial intelligence?

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