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GABORONE, Botswana – Botswana's first digital Population and Housing Census kicked off successfully on Friday 18th March, with the first enumerated household being that of the President of the Republic of Botswana and his family, in Gaborone. 

This is Botswana's first paperless census, where computer-assisted personal interviewing (CAPI)  rather than a paper-based questionnaire is used to collect data. With the use of CAPI,  data collection is expected to take less time. Data from the census is significant as the statistics will help in facilitating evidence-based policy and strategy formulation including the development of the new National Development Plan 12, the review of the constitution, and monitoring the country's progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.

Census Knowledge

An interview with Segolame Bolosaka (23), a young mother of two, with a third baby on the way revealed that some members of the public do not understand the importance of a census.

"I've heard information on the census but I am not interested because I do not understand its purpose. Why should I be counted when it does not bring any difference in my life," she said.

Segolame, who is employed on a farm together with her partner, lives in a small settlement called Kgare. There is no clinic, school, or running water where she lives, and has to travel by donkey cart to the nearby village to access health services. She hopes the census will help bring developments to her area.

Ms. Keolebale Morolapula (65), a resident of another small village called Ditshegwane also did not know the importance of being counted. After being made aware by the enumerator, she hopes more developments can come to Ditshegwane. She is particularly hopeful for her seven children to be allocated land in the future so that they can have decent housing.

A census publicity and public education campaign was launched several months ago and various groups of people were subsequently engaged, including community leaders, to mobilize communities to take part in the census. This built confidence and trust in the survey process and the enumerators.

Sakarea Lepono interviewing Ms. Keolebale Morolapula (65) © UNFPA Botswana/Priscilla Rabasimane


Botswana is a very big and sparsely populated country. Some of the enumerators helping to conduct the 2022 Population and Housing Census often walk long distances to reach each household – at times, deep in the forest and under scorching temperatures.  

In a very remote area such as Ditshegwane, Sakarea has to travel to the nearby farms as most people spend their time there during this plowing season. He often has to cover around 20km in a day. 

"Yesterday I had to accompany a female colleague to a  very remote place because she couldn't walk alone in the forest," he says. 

This is not an isolated experience: many enumerators walk long distances to reach villages that are sparsely situated.

He is, however, happy that no member of the community has given them a hard time so far, as they have been welcoming and very responsive, even those who do not understand the importance.

Why data gathered by a census is critical for development

A census involves the collection of demographic, economic, and social data and information on all those who live in the country. The information generated by a population and housing census is therefore critical for development, as up-to-date and reliable national data on population is critical for evidence-based planning and decision-making. Without accurate data on the number of people, their distribution, and their living conditions, policymakers do not know where to invest in schools, hospitals, and roads. Those most in need remain invisible.

"One of the development challenges that Botswana faces is the limited availability of quality and adequately disaggregated data for evidence-based planning and monitoring and evaluation of programmes. The data from the census are expected to not only improve data availability but also serve as a mechanism for calibration or quality assurance of future intercensal surveys,"  said Ms. Boago Makatane, UNFPA's Strategic Information Specialist.

She emphasized the importance of up-to-date population data for monitoring the country's progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). "Approximately 98 of 232 SDG indicators require population data for their calculation and in the decade of action, the census data will contribute to the establishment of baselines for some of the SDG indicators whilst updating progress on some."

A census is a unique source of information on the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized groups. These data are even more important in the face of a pandemic, when the provision of emergency medical facilities requires data on the affected populations, to ensure that no one is left behind.

UNFPA support

UNFPA's overarching responsibility is to support advocacy for successful census taking, provide responsive technical assistance and oversight, and support mobilization of adequate resources to ensure that the census is implemented following the United Nations Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses for the 2020 Round of PHCs.

Besides providing capacity building and technical assistance to the census process since 2019, UNFPA procured 100 tablets for Statistics Botswana for the pilot census.

"We are proud to support the 2022 census as we recognize the high value of data and accurate information to assist in decision making," said Ms. Makatane.