The history of organized statistical activities in Kenya goes back to the 1920's. The Colonial Government appointed its first Official Statistician in 1925. In 1926, the statistician was assigned to work for the Conference of Governors of the three East African territories of Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika and this foreshadowed the creation of the East African Statistical Department (EASD). The EASD was formally established in 1948. The EASD collected, processed and published statistical data for the three territories. The department published, on a regular basis, the East African Economic and Statistical Bulletin. In 1948 the first population census in Kenya was undertaken but the results were published in 1952.
In 1956, the EASD was decentralized into three separate Statistical Units to serve Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika at the territorial level while retaining the EASD to deal with statistical needs common to the three territories. This was the first time that a fully-fledged Statistical Unit was set up in Kenya. The enactment of the Statistics Act on 4th July 1961 fully integrated the Kenya Statistical Unit within the government machinery as the government Statistical Office. The Statistics Unit was formally established as the Economics and Statistics Division of the Treasury.In 1962, the Division undertook the second Population Census in Kenya prior to attainment of Independence.
In 1963, the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development was established and the Division was transferred from the Treasury to the new Ministry. Subsequently, the Division was split into two units that were elevated to departments namely the Planning Department headed by a Chief Economist and the Statistics Department headed by a Chief Statistician. However, Agricultural Statistics Section of the former Economics Planning and Development was physically located in the Ministry of Agriculture, an arrangement which continued up to 1972. During this year, the Statistics Department of the Ministry of Planning and Development was renamed the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) and the head of the Department was designated â€œDirectorâ€ instead of Chief Statistician.
CBS expanded its operations in the 1960's and 1970's both at the headquarters in Nairobi and at the field level. During this period, it undertook a wide range of data collection activities and kept a healthy publication programme. This impetus continued up to the mid 1980's when CBS greatly expanded its field survey programme to respond to the need for district-level statistical data following the adoption of the District Focus for Rural Development (DFRD) strategy in 1983. However, a deteriorating trend set in mid 1980's and continued into the 1990's. This period was characterized by low level data collection efforts, minimal processing and analysis of collected data and discontinuation of issuance of publications which, in the past, used to be regular features of CBS activities. The factors responsible for the downward trend include inadequate budgetary allocation as a result of reduction in government expenditure and inadequate number of professional staff particularly at senior levels.
It was therefore axiomatic that effective measures were needed to reverse this negative trend and to prepare CBS for the challenge of the 21st century. To this end, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) was established by the Statistics Act of 2006 to replace CBS. The Act establishes KNBS as a Semi-Autonomous Government Agency incorporated under the Ministry of State for Planning, National Development and Vision 2030. Its core mandate is collection, compilation, analysis, publication and dissemination of statistical information for public use, with an additional role of coordinating, monitoring and supervising the National Statistical System (NSS).