How many people are there in Kano?

Nonso Obikili
Jun 8 · 2 min read

We haven’t had a census since 2006, and many argue that census was … not great. The last census before that was in 1991 and many argue that census was …. also not great. And before that we had a census in 1973 but that was so bad it was cancelled. And before then we had a census in 1963 and that was so bad academics have agreed that you just can’t use it for any serious research.

So, how many people are there in Kano? And more generally, how many people are there in Nigeria? Short answer: we don’t know.

Why am I pointing out Kano in particular? Last month the NBS released State GDP for a couple of states. And if we combine that with the “official” population numbers put out by the National Population Commission (latest is 2016) then we get some very interesting statistics.

It turns out, Kano is the poorest state of the bunch published so far, although there are still 15 states pending most notably the north eastern states. Kano, with a GDP per capita of $504 is on average poorer than Zamfara and Bauchi. A very interesting outcome.

In fact, according to the data, if Kano was a country it would be the 11th poorest in the world with GDP per capita lower than Afghanistan, Chad and Niger Republic, and only marginally higher than Somalia and Central African Republic. Not saying its true but its very interesting.

The elephant in the room is of course the population and its not just Kano. We have no idea how many we are and we have no idea how the population is distributed across the country. And if we don’t know then how can we plan?

Just to be clear, this isn’t some “the south is more than the north” or “the north is more than the south” argument. Its just a “we really don’t know” argument. And how, in 2019, can we still not know?

Nonso Obikili

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Economist, African, and some other things | Director at @TurgotCentre | Monthly Nigeria Economic Update at