- Five years late, the national census report is presented, concluding there are now 19.4 million inhabitants in Cameroon. "Foul" cries the opposition, claiming figures are manipulated. Researchers agree they could be false.
The Central Bureau of Census collected its population data all over Cameroon in a major effort already in 2005. But only today, five years after, Deputy Planning Minister Abdoulaye Yaouba could present the conclusions of the General Population and Housing Census of Cameroon.
The thick report was full of interesting information about the country's population and household economy. But all the presented data were projections. Thus, calculations based on the counting in 2005 and mortality, fertility and migration rates were used to reach the conclusion that Cameroon on 1 January 2010 had 19,406,100 inhabitants.
The Deputy Minister at a Yaoundé press conference had many new facts - or rather projections - to present to journalists. It was learned that half of Cameroon's population is younger than 17.7 years; that urbanisation rate has reached 58.2 percent; that nearly 8 million Cameroonians live on less than CFA 500 (€ 0.75) per day; and that the population growth rate is at around 2.6 percent per year.
But journalists at the Yaoundé event were not impressed. The independent Cameroonian daily 'Le Messager' ironically called Deputy Minister Yaouba's presentation "the scoop of the year" before noting that most people present wondered "how the Minister was able to obtain current statistics from a census carried out in 2005."
Bernadette Mbarga, Director General of the Central Bureau of Census, did his best to answer an increasingly sceptical press body. He defended the logics of the projections used by the bureau, while journalists questioned how statisticians could end up using a population growth rate lower for the 2005-10 period than for the 1990s.
Not only journalists questioned the 19.4 million conclusion of the Planning Ministry. Many Cameroonians reported they never had been contacted by data collectors in 2005. Others questioned whether the Ministry had been able to include the many newly arrived immigrants from all over West Africa in their 2005-10 projections.
The results were also questioned by independent Cameroonian researchers. One statistical expert told the 'Journal du Cameroun' that the mere five-year delayal of the census' presentation indicated something had gone wrong. "This means only one thing, they had problems," he told the newspaper on condition of anonymity.
The strongest reaction came from the country's main opposition party Social Democratic Front (SDF) in a statement forwarded to afrol News. The party, which came same second to the ruling party in the last two elections, claimed the numbers presented were outright falsifications by government to ease manipulation of the upcoming presidential elections.
The SDF statement held that population numbers had been held exceptionally low, in particular in the western English language region and the pro-opposition coastal region. It especially questioned the population of Douala, set at 3.5 million. Population growth rates had been set far too low in these densely populated areas, the SDF alleged, while it had been inflated in the ruling party's interior strongholds.
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