World Radio Day is a celebration of the medium that will take place on Sunday, February 13, organised by UNESCO as a reminder of the critical role radio continues to play in today’s global mass media, particularly in Africa.
Despite the continuing march of digital media around the globe, radio continues to dominate in many regions of Africa, remaining Africa’s most accessible source of news, particularly for people living in remote areas.
Radio has long played an essential role in African media. According to an Afro barometer survey of 34 African countries published in 2019, radio is the most widely used news medium, surpassing television, print media, and the internet.
It’s easy to see why when looking at the African media landscape and infrastructure. According to Statista, internet penetration in Africa was only 43 per cent in the first quarter of 2020, compared to a global average of 64 per cent. In East Africa, the percentage reduces to 24 per cent. That’s less than a quarter of the population with access to the news websites and social media platforms that many take for granted worldwide.
Radios, on the other hand, are affordable and portable. People in all 54 countries on the continent rely on them to inform them about what’s going on in their communities, countries, and worldwide.
For example, the Kenyan National Bureau of Statistics produced a report in May 2020 claiming that radio stations provided 82 per cent of Kenyans with the majority of their information about Covid-19.
Simply put, radios are indispensable to Africans. They can go to places where current technologies can’t. They travel beyond the range of electricity and mobile phones, facing insurmountable challenges posed by a lack of literacy and education.