Outcome of 2019 census to reveal changing face of country

You might be wondering what the results of the census that begins tonight will be. Will they show significant change among Kenyans in a span of ten years since the last census?

Yes. The census results will reveal a new Kenya; a Kenya that has been highly transformed, with people changing their homes, workplaces, what they eat, how they move from one place to another, communicate with each other, how they use their money, what they do with their free time, and how they interact with each other.

Kenya in 2019 is certainly not Disneyland, but if those who died just after being counted in 2009 were to resurrect they would realise that an increasing number of Kenyans are more educated and tech-savvy, work in factories and offices in towns.

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Unlike in 2009 when they engaged in a vicious debate on radio, now they hurl all kinds of insults on Twitter and Facebook which were less than four years in use when the census of 2009 was done.

Dr Scholastica Odhiambo, an Economics lecturer at Maseno University, reckons the census results will reveal the digital generation social media development.

“Increased acquisition of mobile phones has allowed ease of communication and money transaction,” Odhiambo said.

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 “There are also more single women heading households and making key economic decisions,” she added.

For most of them with children, they are content that their children do not die before their fifth birthdays. But most of them are increasingly worried by new killer diseases. Cancer- and other lifestyle diseases- is to 2019 what HIV and AIDS and malaria were in 2009.

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Here are nine things that will shape the face of Kenya after the 2019 census results.

1. Population Growth: It is almost certain that the number of Kenyans will increase. And going by analysts’ estimates such as the World Bank that the country’s total population increases by a million each year, the number of Kenyans is likely to get close to 50 million from 39.4 million in 2009.

2. Formal employment: There are more Kenyans in formal employment today compared to 2009. This means better earnings, for those in unions. But it also means more taxes as they have to be deducted PAYE. 

3. Increased education levels: Some of the beneficiaries of Free Primary Education (FPE) are currently in the job market. With FPE, the number of children enrolled in primary schools increased exponentially, albeit at the expense of quality education, according to some critics. It was not just in primary school enrollment, the number of people in  university has also increased dramatically. 

4. New ways of moving around: By the time the 2009 census was done, most Kenyans households owned bicycles, which was a major mode of transport. Bicycles are still there, but there is a new kid on the road: boda-boda. Ten years ago, there were 252,000 motor-bikes. This has since increased five times to 1.3 million and they have been both a curse and a blessing. Registered motor cars were half a million, now they are close to a million. Moreover, and for the tech-savvy Kenyans, rather than hail taxis physically, they do it online. That was not there in 2009. 

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5. From text to WhatsApp: Ten years ago, short-messaging services (SMS) offered by telecommunications providers were perhaps the only means to send a text message. Today, people send messages through social media platform such as Whatsapp. And that is not all, they also hold meetings and fundraise on WhatsApp for relatives and friends. 

6. Mobile phone is king: In 2009, six out of ten Kenyan households had mobile phones. Today almost every Kenyan owns a handset. Through their mobile phone, they can send money to relatives in the countryside, pay rent, or even pay for goods and services. 

7. From bank accounts to mobile accounts: In 2009, most Kenyans had Saccos, banks, microfinance institutions or mattresses as the preferred place of keeping their savings. There was no such thing as mobile saving. But once Safaricom unveiled mobile money transfer service in 2007, M-Pesa, mobile phones became their preferred savings vehicles, with almost half of Kenyans putting their money there, according to official results. 

8. Electricity access to internet access: It is no longer about access to the internet - albeit many Kenyans are still not connected to the national grid. The number of Kenyans connected to the internet has increased considerable. And it is not just any other internet, but increasingly fast internet. There were 52 Licensed Internet Services Providers (ISPs) in 2009, but this figure has shot up to 257 in 2018. 

9. From analogue to Digital TV: A baby born and counted in 2009 has not only never seen a black and white Great Wall, they have also been watching bigger television sets. If a Kenyan spent Sh10,000 in 2009 to buy a number of consumer goods, and television set happened to be one of them, Sh1200 would go to TV. In 2018, this fraction of expenditure that went to TV reduced to Sh277

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10. A new spending item called Airtime: A report by The Standard showed that for the entire year, the average Kenyan spends a total of two days just talking on their mobile phone. This is the Kenyan the census officers will interact with. Some of the 2019 Kenyan will rather go hungry but buy airtime. “Some people are using the airtime to call so they can find a kibarua (menial work),” Dr Bitange Ndemo, a lecturer at the University of Nairobi and former Principal Secretary, said in a past interview.

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CensusKNBSFred Matiang'i