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Many Depend on Radio Broadcasts across Africa

An old radio is placed outside Ngwiza Khumbulani Moyo's home in Bulawayo on February 15, 2023. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
Many Depend on Radio Broadcasts across Africa
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In much of Africa, traditional radio sets are widely used. Radios are more popular than smartphones and computers because internet service is not always available in many places in Africa.

The United Nations children’s agency studied school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency said African countries south of the Sahara Desert had the highest percentage of schoolchildren who lacked internet during that time. Many students depended on solar-powered radio sets at home for their lessons.

Afrobarometer is a research group based in Accra, Ghana. It found that more than 80 percent of people in Africa own a mobile phone with access to a mobile phone network. But “fewer than half” have mobile phones with internet access. When asked, 28 percent of people in 34 African countries said they had access to a computer at home.

Afrobarometer said increasing information and communications technologies is important for “most African countries, and for the continent as a whole.”

The research group found radio is “overwhelmingly” the most common way of getting news in Africa. About 68 percent of respondents said they listened at least a few times a week, compared to about 40 percent who use social media and the internet.

Traditional radio sets are easier and less costly to use in comparison to internet service.

A woman sells small radio sets at a busy local marketplace stall in Harare on February 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
A woman sells small radio sets at a busy local marketplace stall in Harare on February 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Many small radio sets now come with solar panels that permit people to listen to broadcasts even when they do not have electricity. Radios with a mobile phone charger and a light are popular. That kind of radio is very useful because electricity outages happen often in many parts of Africa and areas with internet can be far apart.

John Masuku has been a radio broadcaster for 50 years. He said many people trust information from their radio sets over other sources.

“There is a lot of disinformation and misinformation, so people still want to check…if it is not said on radio then it is not fact. That is why radio is popular and celebrated in Africa,” he said.

Broadcasts in local languages also get many radio listeners. Zimbabwe’s state radio and many community stations offer broadcasts in Shona, Ndebele and 12 other local languages, he said.

However, the way many people in Africa listen to the radio is changing as internet service improves. The number of people getting news at least “a few times a week” from social media, the internet, or both has almost doubled from 24 percent to 43 percent over the past 10 years, Afrobarometer found.

Stanley Tsarwe works in journalism studies at the University of Zimbabwe. He said the falling prices of mobile phones that can access radio stations is also changing how people listen to radio in Africa.

“There is an ongoing convergence between radio and digital mobile technologies, especially the mobile phone,” he said. “Radio is integrating more rapidly with the mobile phone because it is much more accessible in Africa. The mobile phone is the future of radio in Africa,” Tsarwe said.

I’m Gregory Stachel.

Farai Mutsaka reported this story for Reuters. Gregory Stachel adapted it for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

mobile adj. able to move from one place to another

digital adj. using or characterized by computer technology

overwhelming adj. very great in number, effect, or force

solar panel n. a large, flat piece of equipment that uses the sun's light or heat to create electricity

charger –n. a device that provides electricity for computer, cell phones and other electronic equipment

converge v. to come together and meet

integrate v. to combine (two or more things) to form or create something

rapid adj. happening in a short amount of time


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