radio africa


What is it that has captured the imagination of the rural farmers in Zambia, the gold miners in South Africa and the game wardens in Kenya? What does the small shopkeeper in Dakar, the wheelchair bound tailor in Harare and the aging tribal leader on the Zambezi have in common? They each rely on their local Community Radio to let them know the latest price of paraffin, the availability of printed cotton or the name of the latest elected official responsible for keeping a mighty African river clean.

Community radio was first used in Latin America when a Catholic priest's assistant, Jose Joaqin Salcedo Guarin, in Sutatenza, Colombia, was asked to conduct the weekly sermon but instead used the time to get the local farmers to discuss their concerns. Trying to find a way that the information could be distributed to the other farmers in the region intrigued him. The solution he stumbled on gave birth to the first ever use of radio as a tool for social change. The first broadcast took place on 16 October 1946. Community radio was born.

In the next 30 years community radio was sporadically used until the tin miners of Potosi Oruro, in the highlands of Bolivia, used radio to mobilise against their harsh working conditions in July 1980.

Meanwhile, in Africa, an old farmer sitting on a tree stump carefully composed the note he was writing to Gogo Breeze. Today it is estimated that over a million people near the border of Malawi listen to Breeze FM, located in eastern Zambia in a rural town called Chipata. Gogo (grandfather) Breeze answers questions relating to anything from marital matters to crop failure. The show is designed in a clever way that has his grand-daughter open and read the letters to her Gogo because the old man has trouble reading and things have become a lot worse since a naughty little monkey ran off with his reading glasses after the last harvest.

The use of radio as an information tool has exploded over the African continent partly as a result of a group of women in the township of Khayalitsha - near Cape Town, South Africa, who needed access to health information. A young doctor from Argentina decided to use a small transmitter to broadcast health information to women in the area who visited the small health centre which was located in a shipping container where he provided free medical service to the poor.

Because the action was illegal, the transmitter was hidden under his examination table so it was not discovered by the Apartheid police when they came to investigate the source of the information. Radio Zibonele in Khayalitsha has come a long way since those early days. It now boasts a fully functional studio providing the people of Khayalitsha with a valuable service.

When travelling through rural Africa you will notice an excitement that was not there before. Thanks to Gogo Breeze communities are talking to each other and much needed information is reaching the small towns and villages.