Making do with less: the 1990 round of censuses in Sub-Saharan Africa.
For sub-Saharan countries, population censuses are crucial in obtaining data about local areas, sociodemographic characteristics, and input for development and policy making. Most sub-Saharan countries cannot afford to fund censuses, and external assistance has been provided by UNFPA, the US, the United Kingdom, and France. The World Bank has recently become involved in supporting census work, and coordination between all these groups is critical. 5 critical areas for making effective use of scarce resources are: country commitment; improved donor coordination; management and planning; institutionalization of census capabilities; and improvement of production, dissemination, and use of census data. Country commitment is affected by fund shortages, and political sensitivities. Census work should depend on agricultural seasons, the school year, and migratory movements. Donor coordination in the areas of funding, data analysis, and technical assistance is important. Planning for future censuses should begin 2-3 years before the actual census date, and management of the census should include short-term training and technical assistance from donor countries. The institutionalization of census activities should address the weakest link in census work--data processing. Lengthy delays in processing data because of nonstandardized equipment, limited access, and lack of skilled personnel have hampered census efforts. A fully configured microcomputer system would also address this problem. Publication and dissemination of census data, sometimes delayed as much as 8 years, could be improved by the use of timely microcomputer reports of preliminary results. Attention to these 5 key areas will improve the 1990 round of censuses, and efficiently use the limited resources available.