Counting the uncounted: Inclusive data in Uganda and beyond

What you need to know:

In Uganda, we have made significant progress in improving our population data, but we still struggle to capture the diversity of our society. According to the preliminary results of the 2024 Census conducted by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), Uganda’s population has increased from 34.8 million in 2014 to 45,935,046 people in 2024

As we mark World Population Day today, I am reminded of the countless individuals in Uganda and across Africa who remain invisible in our data systems. This invisibility perpetuates their marginalization, exclusion, and denial of basic human rights. As an advocate for inclusive data, I urge our government, regional, and global leaders to prioritize the counting and representation of all individuals, particularly those on the margins.

In Uganda, we have made significant progress in improving our population data, but we still struggle to capture the diversity of our society. According to the preliminary results of the 2024 Census conducted by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), Uganda’s population has increased from 34.8 million in 2014 to 45,935,046 people in 2024. The population breakdown by sex shows a slight female majority, with 23.4 million females compared to 22.5 million males. Children under 18 accounted for 50.5 percent of the population, while those aged 18-30 make up 22.7 percent. The working-age population (14-64 years) stands at 55.6 percent, indicating a significant labor force.

Kampala remains the country’s economic hub, attracting a daily population of 627,340 visitors and boasting a resident population of 1,875,834. Other major urban centers include Mbarara with 63,318 visitors and 261,656 residents and Gulu, which has 1,1165 visitors and 232,723 residents.

From an East African perspective, we share similar challenges with our neighbors. The East African Community (EAC) has a combined population of over 200 million people, with an average annual growth rate of 3 percent(EAC, 2020). However, data gaps persist, particularly in rural areas and among marginalized communities.

In Africa, the situation is no different. The continent’s population is projected to reach 2 billion by 2050, with over 60 percent of the population under the age of 25 (UN, 2020). However, an estimated 100 million children under the age of five lack birth certificates, denying them access to basic services like healthcare and education (UNICEF, 2020). Furthermore, only 44 percent of African countries have functional civil registration systems, leaving millions unaccounted for (African Union, 2020).

Globally, the situation is just as dire. The world’s population is projected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, with an estimated 1 billion people lacking official identification (UN, 2020). The UN Secretary-General’s call to “count everyone” resonates deeply, as we acknowledge that data collection is a critical step towards realizing human rights and sustainable development. We must learn from best practices worldwide and support countries with limited capacity to improve their data systems.

These population concerns fall under our thematic areas of Gender Justice as well as Accountability and Governance. It is against this background that I urge our leaders to prioritize inclusive data collection and analysis, to ensure that everyone counts and is counted. Let us work together to build a future where data serves the needs of all individuals, particularly those on the margins. Only then can we truly say that we are leaving no one behind.

 Rhyman Alphred Agaba, Advocacy Officer, Citizens Concern Africa