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Radio's future in Africa: blight or bright?

Radio industry watchers and radio bosses believe radio's future in South Africa, Africa and across the world is as bright as ever, and will remain a force to be reckoned with for many years to come. This emerged at the second Joburg Radio Days conference, currently taking place at Wits University in Johannesburg.
"The future of radio in Africa is being exemplified right here in South Africa," said British radio consultant Mary Myers this morning, Wednesday, 27 July 2011.

"Still a critical tool"

"And from the jungles of DRC, Uganda, Mali, Guinea, Liberia and Kenya to the urban households of South Africa, and even in oppressive places such as Zimbabwe, radio in Africa is still a critical tool for empowerment, live-saving, education, political change, social development and election awareness, and the medium is growing."

According to Myers, there are now more than 300 radio stations in Mali, a country where radio stations contributed a lot to the overthrow of dictator Moussa Traore in the early '90s. The DRC has over 400 radio stations, including UN-funded Radio Okapi, which played a huge role during the 2006 elections.

Even in Zimbabwe, where dictator Robert Mugabe continues to have a grip on broadcasting, there are 300 applications for upcoming radio frequency.

"Radio will continue to grow"

Myers, who has many years of experience in African radio and describes herself as a radio enthusiast, added: "As long as radio keeps in touch with its audiences, especially the youth and women, showcases local music, invests a lot of money in training and embraces new technology, and uses creative ways to involve its audiences, radio will continue to grow, build better communities, entertain and remain a great force for development."

Speaking about embracing new technology, Primedia Broadcasting CEO Terry Volkwyn recounted how radio stations operating under her stable have successfully combined radio with digital platforms such as Twitter and station websites.

"Radio is still very relevant in SA communities, which we inspire, educate and serve on a daily basis," she said.

"Helps us hold government accountable"

"Our strong focus and strength are also the fact that we have an independent and credible newsroom, which helps us to hold the government accountable when it fails to deliver on its promises and mandate."

Joburg Radio Days is being attended by delegates from as far as New York City, London, Harare, Dakar, Kampala, Lusaka, Lisbon and many other places across the world.

The conference is discussing what works, and what does not work, on radio by looking at best practices internationally. It is also looking at programming quality and innovation, including the use of opportunities of multimedia and other traditional forms.

Sponsors of the conference include the US Embassy in Pretoria, the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Foundation, Wits Journalism, British High Commission in Pretoria, Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), Kgolo Trust, IDRC-CRDI, VOW 90.5, Radio Convergence and Development in Africa (RCDA) and National Association of Broadcasters (NAB).

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Posted on 27 Jul 2011 11:19

About Issa Sikiti da Silva: @sikitimedia

Issa Sikiti da Silva is a winner of the 2010 SADC Media Awards (print category). He freelances for various media outlets, local and foreign, and has travelled extensively across Africa. His work has been published both in French and English. He used to contribute to as a senior news writer.