The BBC's audiences across Africa grew significantly last year
with the expansion of FM distribution and amid heightened
interest in international news in the aftermath of the Iraq
war. Across the continent, the BBC is as much a part of
their everyday media experience as it is for people in Britain.
'The BBC's African Services are part of the fabric of Africa,'
says Jerry Timmins, Head of Africa and Middle East Region.
'Africans turn to the BBC for news about what is happening
at home and how international events will affect their lives.
There is a real hunger for objective, impartial information.
People want to know what is going on, why decisions are
made and what the impact is going to be on them.'
During the year, the number of weekly listeners to BBC
programmes increased from 61.5 million to 68.5 million
across Africa and the Middle East. The strong performance
in sub-Saharan Africa was led by the English, Swahili and
Hausa Services. Tanzania, Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria are
key markets. In Ghana, the BBC is the leading broadcaster,
domestic or foreign. In Tanzania, where BBC programmes
are available on FM in Dar es Salaam and other major
cities, more than11million people now listen – 60% of
The BBC's relationship with audiences drew closer with the
introduction of new interactive programmes such as Africa
Live. It was the first full year for the weekly forum, which
invites opinions on everything from the African brain drain
to alcohol abuse. Debates were hosted in multiple locations
across the continent, uniting audiences from the west, east
'Many Africans are not slow in coming forward to voice their
opinions and we and more and more people want to join
in the conversation on the BBC,' says Jerry Timmins. 'Texts
are cheap and immediate and more accessible in many parts
of Africa than the internet.'
News and current affairs programmes such as Network Africa
and Focus On Africa experienced an upsurge in contributions
from the growing number of mobile phone users. 'On
Network Africa we now sprinkle messages all through the
programme as people react instantly to the stories they
hear,' says the programme's editor, Joseph Warungu. 'We
regularly receive more than 100 messages in one morning
and there was an amazing response when we asked people
to be 'editor for the day'. People from all over Africa are now
taking part and communicating with us and with each other.
Through the BBC, the continent seems to have become
much smaller than it used to be.'
The Swahili Service now attracts the largest single audience
One of the most popular Swahili programmes is Dira Ya
Dunia (The Compass of the World), a daily round-up of news
and current affairs, features and sport. Investment in local
studio facilities in a number of east African countries has
brought Swahili reporters closer to listeners and provided
higher quality material for FM broadcasts.
'Listeners particularly rely on programmes such as Dira Ya
Dunia for international news because local stations are not
able to provide the same breadth of coverage from Africa
and other parts of the world,' says Tido Mhando, Swahili
Service Editor. 'We are able to report in Swahili from
countries including Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo,
Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania. We also have our own
correspondents in key countries such as India and the
United States. Local radio stations regularly pick up reports
from our internet site - they made extensive use of our
coverage of the tenth anniversary of the Rwanda massacre,
During the year, the BBC's network of African
correspondents provided outstanding coverage from Liberia,
Sierra Leone and Uganda, as well as Rwanda. They analysed
attempts to broker peaceful solutions to conflicts in Sudan
and Somalia. Awards were made to the Portuguese Service
and Beatrice Murail of the French Service, who received
the UN Foreign Correspondent's Prize for her coverage
The BBC has a significant role in the continent's cultural
and social life. African writers took centre stage in the African
Performance season, which featured commissioned works and
winners of the BBC 2004 Playwriting Competition. In Nigeria,
a major public education project Voices, through the BBC
World Service Trust, was launched.
For Africa's millions of football fans, the BBC's coverage
of the African Cup of Nations was stronger than ever.
A reporter from Ray Power FM, one of the BBC's partners
in Nigeria, worked with the on-air team. The Arabic Service
joined African language teams for the first time to bring live
match reports to listeners.