The latest population and housing census in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) dates back to 1984.
A census aspires to count every person in a defined territory at a given time, providing key information on population and socioeconomic factors. Governments use these data for electoral planning, policy decisions and formulation, and the allocation of resources for essential development such as health programmes, schools, roads, and much more. For the DRC, the absence of a recent census means that the country has had to rely on population projections as the basis for decision-making.
A census is among the most complex and massive peacetime exercises a nation undertakes. To support pre-census activities in the country, GRID3 has been working closely with the National Institute of Statistics and the Bureau Central de Recensement (BCR, Census Bureau) to provide overall technical assistance and support to incorporate geospatial data into census planning and cartography implementation.
In preparing for a census, a country needs to be divided into small units which provide manageable areas for census data collection teams to work within. These small units are called enumeration areas (EAs) and may typically contain 150 to 200 households in rural areas, and 200 to 250 households in urban settings. During a census, enumerators are assigned enumeration areas, in which they survey all households and persons.
Satellite imagery and GIS (Geographic Information Systems) techniques are increasingly playing an essential role in census planning. This includes accurate delineation of enumeration areas. Generally, EA boundaries from one census will form the basis for the EAs in the next census, with updates needed to account for new settlements and changes in population density. However, in countries where there hasn’t been a census for many years, often due to conflict or insecurity, EA boundaries can be incomplete, outdated, or missing altogether. Even for countries where national censuses are routinely conducted, updating EAs is a challenging yet essential task in the preparation for a census. Commonly, EA delineation is done during field cartography, often followed by manual digitisation of small geographic units on high-resolution satellite imagery or physically walking along the boundaries of an EA. Both techniques are highly time, cost and labour intensive. At the moment, a recent national, digital EA dataset which can be used for cartography planning does not exist for DRC.