As the world marks World Radio Day today, the 13th Day of February 2015, I take this opportunity to reflect on what the powerful instrument of radio can do to foster development beyond 2015.
Radio for a fact remains the undisputed primary source of information in Africa for very obvious reasons. I need not to outline the reasons here because they are already known to any person who is able to read this piece.
Radio goes beyond the imaginable barriers to reach the deepest of the villages. Messages through radio gets to the ears of poorest of the poor. It is very unique among the old and new tools of communication, it is the only communication tool that has managed to befriend both the poor and the rich without discrimination.
Having actively worked in the radio broadcasting industry for 13 years now as a broadcast journalist both in Kenya and in South Sudan, I must admit that I have a strong ground to claim a living testimony to the fact that radio is a powerful communication tool which is increasingly being overlooked at the expense of many other positive outcomes including development.
A person with a superficial eye would be quick at attacking my criticism of the radio output today in Africa but a mind that is not superficial would agree with me that many quality radio hours are going to waste thanks to superficial content.
Superficial radio has unfortunately overthrown radio for development in Africa. Interestingly as the world gets to homestretch in the race to a new set of Development Goals (SDGs) you will be shocked to find most radio journalists are not aware of what is happening and have therefore not tickled their audiences to join the fast track to the new Global Development Agenda.
Radio producers and presenters who wake up each morning only to report to their work stations to waste their audiences’ time with light, less informative and underdeveloped links between songs will have themselves to blame in future for having wasted quality time at the expense of development.
The media and most importantly radio should take their seriousness to the next level by helping their faithful audiences to participate and engage with this process. It is sad that much time went to struggling to educating the public about MDGs for a period of 15 years. 15 years down the line and that we still have people in Africa who have no idea at all about MDGs. They do not have an idea because the wrong tools for communicating serious development messages have been given a cold ear and eye by the powers behind the message and the individuals behind the microphone.
Many people in Africa were left behind during the development of MDGs. They trend continued even during the implementation of the now expiring global development blueprint. As we fast approach the adoption of a new set of development goals to guide development for the next 15 years, We must resist to accept radio in Africa to be left behind this time round.
|A Training Session for radio producers at the Voice of Peace Radio In South Sudan|
One of my major tasks while in South Sudan for my capacity building programs between 2011 and 2014, was to encourage & motivate local producers & presenters to change their mind-set from misusing the natural radio resource positively and productively using it to encourage a peaceful environment for economic growth, build confidence among communities and educate their listener. I hardly concluded my sessions on “radio for development“ without reminding them “to use radio for development, not for destruction.”
Truth be said! Radio cannot do it alone, broadcast journalists, radio journalists and radio managers cannot do it alone. The voice of radio in Africa should be powered and amplified enough by the who is who to make the people’s voice across Africa to be heard in Africa and beyond. Language and technology is not a major communication barrier for effective communication through radio. We have not tangible reasons to justify why the voice of an indigenous child, woman, man living in the remotest village in Africa or the poorest man living in a slum located in the wealthiest city in Africa should not be heard.
A new set of development goals and a journey inspired by the anticipated new goals towards a rewarding fight against poverty and inequality by 2030 is going to be a journey in futility for Africa if the influential radio leverage is not going to be invested in for purposes of fostering intrinsic development.
World Radio Day comes before the valentine’s day. The proximity of the two days should encourage governments and Non-Governmental Organizations to strengthen their relationship with radio stations. Perceiving radio as an enemy is an old fashioned approach belonging to the agents of underdevelopment.
2015 is a very important year for the rising Africa. World leaders will in September agree on a new set of development goals to succeed the Millennium Development Goals. Their contribution and decisions in the ongoing process and their respective actions post 2015 will dictate many developmental activities. Needless to point out the post 2015 process in the remaining to September should not be left to a selected few. People from all walks of life should be given a chance to participate actively through the friendly instrument of radio.
In Africa if we are serious about using the instrument of radio to deliver development to the people of Africa beyond 2015; we have no choice but to ensure that we have reinforced working & consolidated partnerships featuring radio stations, Governments and Non Governmental Organizations in Africa.
We must stop hiding behind the challenge of justifying the effectiveness of radio messaging and factor in radio in our budgets for advocacy messages on development or lose the battle against poverty and inequality to the priceless superficial content.
We must with all fairness consider as gone the days of expecting radio stations to come to your offices fundraising for advocacy work. We must recapture the power of radio from the unforgiving hands of the drivers of superficial content and encourage them with all acceptable forms of support to become a true tool of development for Africa and her people.
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