How do you say radio in Afrikaans

The new African public

Africa - almost half a century after the end of the colonial era, the continent is now divided into 54 sovereign states. While the barriers are falling in Europe, most African countries still seal themselves off from one another with borders that can only be overcome with infinite patience and a little bribe. Road and train connections are in poor condition, especially in the middle of the continent, and direct air travel is often impossible, even between neighboring countries. You still have to make a detour of several thousand kilometers via the capital of the former colonial power in Europe or the South African Johannesburg. And yet Africa has moved closer together in recent years.

News in Chichewa, the mother tongue of a good six million people in the heart of Africa. What is reported here from the Malawian capital Lilongwe comes from "Channel Africa". This information and entertainment program is produced in the Johannesburg headquarters of the South African radio in six different languages ​​and can be received across the continent via the Internet, via shortwave or with a small satellite antenna. In some countries, the pan-African programs are also taken over by local radio stations and broadcast on VHF and medium wave. "Channel Africa" ​​sees itself as the "voice of the African renaissance" and - unlike the programs also broadcast to Africa by the BBC, Radio France International and Deutsche Welle - wants to look at Africa with African eyes and thus contribute to the creation of an African public . Thami Ntentini is the editor-in-chief of "Channel Africa".

We really have the power to reach a continental audience. We just have to tell people: Your world is not just South Africa, your world is much bigger, it is a continent. Here in South Africa the President says it so often that we cannot exist as an island of prosperity in a sea of ​​poverty. So one begins to understand that we are closely intertwined with the other countries on this continent. What happens there affects us too. An African public is beginning to emerge.

A pan-African public - if Thami Ntentini wants to remember how high these standards are, all he has to do is lift his eyes from his desk and look out the window. Affluent Johannesburg spreads out 14 floors below. Villas with light blue swimming pools, the neo-classical buildings on the campus of Rand Afrikaans University, wide avenues, lush green parks, criss-crossed by multi-lane traffic arteries that run like glittering rivers over the hills when it gets dark. Nowhere is Africa richer, a third of all electricity generated south of the Sahara is consumed here. Life is much more reminiscent of Miami than Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. There, over 5000 kilometers northwest of Johannesburg, Souleymane Sow founded a small company for renewable energy systems after completing his studies at the Technical University in Aachen. He, too, depends on maintaining contact with other countries and can tell a song about the fact that not much can be expected here on the edge of the Sahara from the infrastructure that works so brilliantly in South Africa's metropolis. For example from the internet connection.

It runs, as the saying goes, so-so. The fact is that there are three Internet providers in Burkina Faso, and two are connected to one. This means that if the main server fails, there is no international connection because it is the only one connected to the satellite. All others are connected to the main server. They can work internally, but information cannot be obtained for international sites. That often happens, unfortunately. Especially in the rainy season it is very often canceled. Every three to four days, i.e. at least once a week, there is no connection. (laughs) That of course makes the connection between Burkina Faso and the other countries very bad, difficult.

All African countries now have a connection to the Internet, but almost half have a line that does not offer more transmission capacity for the whole country than two normal ISDN connections. Even at the University of Harare in the comparatively wealthy Zimbabwe, over 10,000 students and teachers have to share an Internet connection, the capacity of which corresponds to a single DSL connection. And while something like this costs 17 euros a month in Germany, the university in Harare has to pay a few thousand euros for it. No wonder that in Africa not even two percent of the population have access to the Internet, while in Western Europe, Korea, Japan or the USA every second person is online. The Internet in Africa is still thin, unreliable, slow and expensive.

And yet an internet café is becoming more and more common even in small African towns. Sometimes it's just a dusty hut with a single old PC, but sometimes there are also a dozen stylish flat screens in an air-conditioned room - like "Internet Solutions" in a classy shopping center in the Botswana capital of Gaborone. One hour of surfing here costs 15 pula, around 2.50 euros. David Chipeta is the manager of the newly opened store.

So a young person comes along and needs material for a school project, for example. He comes to me and says: can you help me find something like this? Then I go to one of the search engines and collect all the material related to the topic. I give it to the student. He learns something from it, and that also helps the community. So I'm a teacher because some people are computer illiterate. When they come, I try to use the mouse to help them, how to use graphics, the different screen surfaces, all that stuff. I make sure that you can find your way around the net. I just do it like that. I never learned how to teach in a school.

And the young people hanging here in front of the screen learn quickly. With nimble fingers they surf to the websites of their pop stars and chat cheerfully like their peers in Europe or the USA. Most of the time, they communicate in English, but sentences in Setswana are also appearing more and more frequently on the screens.
Journalist Thapelo Ndlovu advocates the use of Setswana in his country's media. This includes a bi-weekly independent newspaper and an internet portal.

There is an internet service provider called Dumela.com. Dumela means hello. The service is very popular with the Batswana. They chat there in Setswana, etc. The internet is still new here, people still have to learn how to use it and what advantages it can offer. And the government sends a lot of students abroad. They also use our offer.

Not only students go abroad. Over the past 20 years, millions of young Africans have left their homeland as a result of labor migration and refugee movements. Many families are now scattered across several countries, sometimes even continents. They have long been in contact with one another, especially via the Internet and email. Letters are lost far too often, take weeks, sometimes even months, are censored in some countries and are also much more expensive than communication over the Internet. If you do not have your own computer, you will receive the email via a local internet café or via friends who have access to the network at work.

The e-mail has replaced the letter, and Africa's emigrants can refresh their feelings at home on the Internet. Ouasua Dun Ouasula studies computer science at the University of Bremen. He comes from Uganda and likes to click his way to Radio Simba, the station from his hometown Kampala, at work.

Radio Simba from Uganda is online, I can hear it here on the computer. You mix English with my mother tongue and some other Ugandan languages ​​as well. But I come from Uganda and can understand and enjoy everything. That's so, so nice, that sounds good. Then when I hear the Ugandan musicians sing in my mother tongue, that's great. You feel like you are at home - unfortunately you are not really at home.

The Internet has opened a window to the world for Africa. Connections within Africa are far worse off. Across the continent, only 28 million telephone connections are available to 800 million people, no more than in Tokyo. Outside the big cities, there is on average not even a single telephone connection for every 100 people, and two thirds of all Africans still live in rural areas. In particularly poor countries such as Burundi, Guinea Bissau, Eritrea or the Central African Republic, over 85 percent of all telephones are in the capital. It is true that mobile telephony overtook the fixed network three years ago. There are now over 60 million cell phones in use in Africa, but these are mainly in large cities. There is radio silence in the country.

For example in Botswana. Outside the capital region, the extremely sparsely populated desert state is a single dead zone. No phone rings, no screen flickers. That sounds idyllic, but it is not only a problem for people in emergencies. Although they live in a state that is extremely democratic by African standards, they can hardly make use of their rights. The journalist Modise Maphanyane heads an organization committed to the development and freedom of the media in Botswana.

In every single place in our country there are things that are very important to the people. You don't even have to share it with the world. They just want to talk to each other about it. But they have no means for it. There are no local broadcasters in Botswana. And that's not how we hear people. Not that they won't yell or say anything - they just don't have forums through which we would hear them. In a third world country like Botswana, you learn a lot more about things that happen outside of your own country than what happens inside your own country. There is just not enough coverage from the rural areas. And there is no way such news would get onto the internet. The internet is a tool, just like a computer: what you put in comes out again. So if you don't put the right thing in, you don't get the right thing out.

The internet is a tool. African media discovered it early on and are now making extensive use of it. Not only do many independent radio stations reach their listeners abroad via the Internet, but over 50 African newspapers can also be read online. Technically, the data is almost always first transferred to a computer in the USA and then posted on the Internet from there. This shortens the loading times and protects the texts from censorship. Even a bomb attack on the publishing house - as for example at the opposition newspaper "Daily News" in Zimbabwe - can then no longer prevent the spread of the unwanted news. And if a newspaper is censored in a country or a journalist is arrested, the news immediately goes around the world. The independent Media Institute of Southern Africa alone has distributed 500 such emergency calls over the past six years, saving the lives of many journalists. Modise Maphanyane is convinced of that.

I am quite sure that the risk of being murdered has decreased. Just the fact that they know that they are being watched, that we will take care of our colleagues, that no matter how hard it is, we will find out what happened, that keeps people alive.

Africa's journalists have become more confident. The wave of democratization that swept across the continent after the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s has led to the creation of independent newspapers and radio stations in most countries. Today journalists can also find a job outside of the state-controlled communication organs, from which they can make a living - even if more badly than right.

What does not yet exist in Africa, however, are freelance journalists who research independently and then sell their contributions to the media. Radio editor Klaus Jürgen Schmidt worked for many years as a consultant to the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Zimbabwe and trained journalists in the capital, Harare.

That doesn't exist on the entire African continent. There is, at least not known to me, no broadcaster - except for the Republic of South Africa - no broadcaster that even has a fee budget in its budget, in its budget. So that would be able to pay authors, freelance authors, buy something from them. You have to - and this has been our experience - if you want to get rid of a series of programs on an African station, you also have to pay for the slot. They don't somehow get a fee, but they also pay for the broadcast slot as the person who offers the content so that it is broadcast.

Dan Teng’o reports from Kenya on the reasons why some children do not go to school. The contribution was produced for "Radio Bridge Overseas", a media office for topics from everyday life in Africa that emerged from the journalism school in Harare. Radio stations who want to include it in their program can download the audio file from the Internet.

I think that with the emergence of this new technology, with the fact that you can do all of this with the computer and the necessary software, almost better and faster because it is digital and not linear, that you can produce professional radio programs, that you can use the internet by sending compressed audio files back and forth. That this is a completely new opportunity for this freelance thinking of journalists in Africa. If three or four get together now, maybe they can afford a computer. If they are then good, if they make good stories, then maybe they will be able to break into the north market and sell exciting stories that they have made, with music and all the trimmings. So there are completely new possibilities.

Programs like the report on Kenyan truancy are not only broadcast over the Internet, they can also be heard in the educational program of "Worldspace". Since 1998, the American company's two satellites have been broadcasting a good 50 digital radio programs to Africa, including "Channel Africa" ​​and "Interworld", an educational program that regularly takes on contributions from "Radio Bridge Overseas". Although the receivers equipped with a small fold-out satellite antenna are still too expensive to conquer a mass market, many independent radio stations in the African province record the digital programs and broadcast them on their own FM medium and shortwave stations.

A free exchange of news and opinions across African borders is sorely needed. Because wars are still started here with prejudices about neighboring peoples. In Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, it is still not possible to buy a newspaper from neighboring Ghana. And a phone call there costs five euros a minute - just as much as to Europe. If you want to know something about the neighboring country, you have to rely on the Africa services of the BBC and Radio France International. And even those looking for well-founded information about their own country are more likely to find it in the databases of US universities than at home.

Internet and satellite technology have created the prerequisites for the fragmented African continent to move closer together. But the African public has not yet emerged. And in Europe, too, the image of Africa is still dominated by the usual horror reports. The journalist Modise Maphanyane from Botswana laments this bitterly.

Europe is learning too little. I want to be clear about that. Europe loves to report on scandals, poverty and diseases in Africa. Because that sells well and it helps us. All of the small development successes that exist are lost in the process. The north-south ratio doesn't reflect what's really going on. I would like to tell you up there in the north: Come here and start reporting positively about Africa. This is not a black continent at all. This is much more than a black continent.

The faces brighten up in front of the Tlokweng barrier too. The customs officer in the check-in hall throws the laboriously filled stack of forms into a cardboard box under the counter - without even looking at him. Then he looks the cross-border commuter friendly in the eye, slams a stamp in his passport and casually waves him through.