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An effective census should inform strong economic policies

As a critical national exercise, the on-going census should provide imperative data needed to  formulate strong

and long-lasting  economic policies. essentially,  information gathered and documented  from this exercise should enable us to come up with economic frameworks that  outlast the typical 5-year election cycle.

Evidence-based  decision-making is a globally  recognized approach  in the efficient management  of a coun- try’s resources. It is also a measuring stick on the progress of set economic targets, population growth and impact on the economy, as well as, political and social-cultural changes that have eventually shaped the trends of differ- ent demographics economy-wise.

Whilst this is the sixth national census  since independence, it is the first  that  the  country has  under- taken since the introduction  of the devolved system  of   governance. Hence,  in  addition to  providing key information on the above on a broader national level, this  year’s census will be pivotal in examining

the extent to which fiscal and pub- lic policies are either catalysing or impeding growth at the county level. In  order to chart an economi- cally sustainable path forward for this country for the next 10  years and more, insights from census data analysis should be front and centre in  national discussions, and more so, those between government  and industry. together  we will need to review our  policy development  in

For example, we have been talking about a demographic dividend that the country can take advantage of to boost its economy; but what is the status of this demographic? What is their level of education? What are their skills? Where are they? can they access and afford basic necessities?

In addition to this, other cru- factors that will surface is, for the understanding and use technology by  different demo- , the rate of its adoption in and access to basic tech-

for everyday  use. the  data will also  highlight factors around employment; what is  the  current status on the rate of unemployment? Where are  the jobs?  Are existing jobs stable?

If these numbers are to be con- sidered in policy-development  spe- cifically with regard to  economic sustainability, it could mean review- ing  the  current state  of  industry dispersion  in the country and

how it can be improved in the counties, in  order to  increase the number of  households across  the country that have stable incomes.

Statistics will also  assist  poli- cy-makers to  identify gaps in  the value chain  that  have  the  great potential to boost our country’s com- petitiveness and  grow our  export markets.

Let’s say we analyse data from communities that successfully grow and sell fruits, and whether these activities  provide consistent  sources of income (as opposed to seasonal);

vis-à-vis investors in  the  country (and  beyond) specializing in  fruit processing  and value-addition. We would  then develop  policy inroads, to encourage new factories to be set up in close proximity to these com-

munities, thereby making it possible for strong linkages to be established. economic activities such as these have a multiplier effect on society. they  are likely to spur the growth of other sectors that feed into them. transfer   and  acquisition of  new skills and technology will also take place as the demands  of new jobs

increase.

census  data will also shed light on  existing businesses, especially Small and Medium enterprises.  It will drive a crucial conversation on the definitions and classifications of these businesses, their capacity to formalize, be productive and profit- able. this  will then form the basis of the institution of progressive and flexible policies that take into con- sideration unique challenges faced

by SMes, especially  women-owned and led enterprises. It would create an  opportunity  to  interrogate cur- rent approaches towards SMes and subsequently, inform either a need to revise or bolster them with the future in mind.

the census is an opportunity for the country to pause, take a  look back  over the  past 10  years and chart a way forward for the next 10 and more. It is an opportunity  for us to drive issue-based national dia- logue on development, decentralize habitual politicking and  focus on

socio-economic prosperity.

The Writer  is the  CEO of kenya association of Manufacturers and the UN global Compact Representative for kenya. she can be reached at ceo@kam. co.ke.