The first radio broadcasts in Sub-Saharan Africa were made in the early 1920s. The earliest recording of a radio broadcast was made in 1923 in South Africa. It was Mendelssohn's "Auf Fluegeln des Gesanges."
Kenya had its own radio station in 1927, followed by Mozambique in 1933, and Senegal in 1939. But these were only broadcasting programmes made for expatriates.
Hunger for contact
"There has been considerable interest shown in the question of petitions sent by the Ijebu Igbo Patriotic Society embodying requests for the opening of a Telegraph and Post Office at this town... But at present the ordinary man in the street who has to dispatch letters and telegraph messages has to go eleven miles to do so." - Nigerian Daily Times, 4 Dec 1936.
It wasn't until World War II that radio broadcasting was tailored to the needs of people in Africa. People wanted local news but also information about the theatres of war where their relatives and friends had gone to fight. For the first time there were broadcasts in African languages and dialects. People in Lagos could listen to the news in pidgin.
There were broadcasts in Hausa. The distinguished Hausa broadcaster (later Northern politician) Isa Kaita was based in Accra and unusually for that time gave detailed accounts of what was happening in the region, including a description of his own journey from Lagos to Accra under attack from German U-Boats.
During the war the first language service for Africa was set up by the BBC. It was in Afrikaans and aimed to counterbalance the pro-Nazi stands taken by some Afrikaners. After the Second World War radio expanded throughout the continent broadcasting news, music and even drama. The radio became a key tool of government, and in the event of a coup, the radio station was the first stop for the coup makers, where they would then get their message broadcast to the nation.
Breaking linguistic barriers
"As announced in these columns last month, the Ladies Private Social Cub had a very happy time with their friends on Christmas day when they were entertained by our esteemed guest E.O. Kogbe?Prizes were won in dancing by M.E. Norman Coker and Mrs. Phebean Taylor, Mr. B. Taylor and Mrs. E. Offiong and Mr. N.J. Ashwood with Mrs. B. Coker in waltz, foxtrot and one-step respectively." - Daily Times, Nigeria, 1 Jan 1930.
Linguistic barriers began to be broken down as European literature was translated into African languages. Sol Plaatje for example translated Shakespeare into Tswana. There were different forms of creative writing from an African perspective in Ibo, Swahili and Nyanja.
In 1911 the Gold Coast thinker Casely Hayford wrote the first substantial imaginative piece of prose in English. Called Ethiopia Unbound it was a collection of reflections on the history of Ethiopia.
The first historical novel in English, Mhudi, was written by Sol Plaatje in 1912 and published 1920.
Themes of urban life and exploitation of labour were explored by the Senegalese writer Ousman Diop and Rene Maran, an official from Martinique, serving in the French administration in West Africa. Rene Maran's novel Batoula won the top French literary prize, the Prix Goncourt in 1921.
The growth in literacy was reflected in the expansion of mail services, in the twenties and thirties.
Imported drama for children
"Many will be pleased to learn that students of King's College Budo are giving a performance of their pantomime, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves in the museum grounds at old Kampala. A pantomime with one hundred performers is certainly somewhat of a novelty to Kampala and it would seem worth taking opportunity of treating our young folk to an afternoon's entertainment."
- Uganda Herald, 2 Dec 1936.