Radio: As strategic and effective tool for development

13Feb 2018
The Guardian
Radio: As strategic and effective tool for development

WORLD Radio Day is an annual United Nations (UN) event that promotes the importance of the radio in communicating information worldwide.

Therefore February 13 is World Radio Day, which celebrates the radio as a way of educating people, providing information, and promoting freedom of expression across cultures. The day is set for planning activities with broadcasters, organisations and communities around the world.

Despite being over 100 years old, the radio is one of the most popular ways to exchange information, provide social interchange, and educate people all over the world. It has been used to help people, including youth, to engage in discussions on topics that affect them. It can save lives during natural or human-made disasters, and it gives journalists a platform to report facts and tell their stories. The first World Radio Day was officially celebrated in 2012.

One of the first acts of Mwalimu Jullius Kambarage Nyerere's government was to declare Swahili the national language. When radio was started in Dar es Salaam, it had made sense to use Swahili because the language was understood by the merchant class up and down the coast, and they were the people wealthy enough to have receivers.

Most of Africa's many nations get little outside attention, and Tanzania is no exception. The only time it really made news was during World War I when it was the German colony of Tanganyika. With the outbreak of war, the Germans were cut off from their homeland by the British navy. Rather than surrender, a small number of German officers and several thousand African soldiers lived off the land and fought a brilliant guerilla campaign against a much larger force of British and Belgian troops. Their tactics drew worldwide attention and countless news stories told of the Tanganyikan campaign. The Tanganyikan Germans were never really defeated and didn't surrender until two weeks after Germany. Tanganyika became a British territory and slipped into oblivion, overshadowed by Kenya to the north.

Compared to other large British territories in Africa, such as Kenya, Zambia, and Nigeria, broadcasting was late coming to Tanganyika. In these other countries, broadcasting was started to serve European settlers and businessmen, but Tanganyika's European population was too small to justify a radio station. The colonial government put up $30,000 and the Dar es Salaam Broadcasting Station" was founded. At first it only produced a single one-hour programme in Swahili each week, which was replayed two more times later in the week and because the equipment was simple, it could barely be heard outside Dar es Salaam. Throughout the 1950s, African countries began looking for independence, and Tanganyika was no exception. While some countries resorted to violence and riots, Tanganyika gently but firmly made its case for independence through non-violence under the leadership of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere. Slowly the British were persuaded, and in December 1961, Tanganyika became independent.   

A fascinating man, Nyerere was an intellectual known for, among other things, translating Shakespeare into Swahili. As a leader, he emphasized cooperation and moral values, and by his own example he appealed to his countrymen to work for the betterment of their nation above all else. While some African countries developed restrictive policies towards whites and Asians in their borders, Nyerere believed in non-racialism for all, regardless of how his people may have been treated in the past.

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