At a forum of the Winter SWLfest this year, I made a presentation titled, “Shortwave For Good.” In it, one of the ideas I put forth to increase interaction between international broadcasters and their listenership in Africa is through the use of mobile phone SMS technology. I was very pleased today to see that VOA, at least in Burundi, is moving in this direction.
Two new interactive VOA radio shows in Burundi are giving a voice to young entrepreneurs and providing up-to-date information about the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the central African country. The half-hour Kirundi language programmes are produced in Burundi and broadcast from the VOA studios in Washington.
Tujahe, which airs on Sundays, is hosted by Olivier Nkengurutse and Diane Ndonse. VOA Central Africa Service Chief Robert Daguillard says, “We see Tujahe as an opportunity for young Burundians to discuss not just business and entrepreneurship, but also what makes it so difficult to create jobs in Burundi, a country with fertile land, good schools and good roads.”
The other new show, called Kira, focuses on the HIV/AIDS crisis, which Burundi’s government has identified as one of the most serious health issues facing the country. The show, which airs on Saturdays, also features reports from the field, audience trivia questions and music by Burundian artists.
VOA Director David Ensor says, “We hope these programmes serve the needs of our audience in Burundi by providing an interactive space for discussion and debate. Voice of America is uniquely suited to the creation of programmes like these, which utilize local talent and provide up-to-date information about subjects of critical importance.”
The programmes are partly funded by grants from USAID and the State Department. They are broadcast on shortwave, FM, and on the Internet. VOA’s Central African Service, which broadcasts to the Great Lakes region in the Kirundi and Kinyarwanda languages, was created in 1996 and has covered Rwanda’s post-genocide recovery, the conflict in Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi’s civil war.