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Annual Review 2004/05
A year in review - Africa
The BBC's significance to African listeners was highlighted in a rare survey of their lifestyles and attitudes
The BBC's significance to African listeners was highlighted in a rare survey of their lifestyles and attitudes


Africa is home to the BBC's biggest audiences – over 50 million people are regular listeners to BBC World Service programmes, which are produced in eight languages. BBC World Service's long-term commitment to Africa came to the fore in a year when world focus on the continent followed the Commission for Africa initiative to tackle debt, trade and aid. But the media climate is increasingly challenging and audience fragility is a concern. Listening declined significantly in English in countries such as Kenya and Tanzania – although Hausa audiences hit a new record.

It was a year when Africa moved up the global political agenda. UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said reducing poverty in Africa was 'the fundamental challenge of our generation'. The UK-led Commission for Africa urged wealthy nations to double their aid to the continent, raising it by £30bn a year over 10 years.

The BBC's unrivalled ability to report in depth from across Africa is founded upon its large network of African reporters. Working for the BBC's African services in English, Arabic, Hausa, Swahili, French, Portuguese, Kinyarwanda and Somali, they contribute expert local knowledge to the BBC's newsgathering operation. There are many examples of brave and high quality reporting. Khartoum correspondent Alfred Taban won the UK Parliamentary Press Gallery's Speaker Abbot Award for his work in exposing the scale of the killing in Sudan's Darfur region. Jonathan Paye-Layleh was honoured for his courageous journalism in Liberia.

Mark Doyle won first prize in the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA)/UN Foundation Awards (Reporting on Humanitarian and Developmental Affairs category) for his coverage of post-war Liberia. 'Historically the BBC's African services have played an important role in spreading free and impartial information for people to know more about what is going on in their societies,' says regional head Jerry Timmins. 'No one should be in any doubt about the BBC's long-term commitment to Africa, both on radio and increasingly on multimedia platforms.'

Holding those in power to account is a daily task for programmes such as Focus on Africa and Network Africa. They have consistently maintained high standards of journalism and are a prime source of news and information for millions of people. Annual tracking surveys in Kenya and Tanzania showed a significant rise in the BBC's ratings for trust during the year.

Nevertheless, audience numbers, particularly in English, are under pressure. Results published at the end of the year showed regular listening had fallen by 2.1 million in Kenya and 1.3 million in Tanzania. In Nigeria, where BBC partner station Ray Power FM has faced government restrictions in broadcasting BBC programmes, audiences fell by 1.5 million. But listening in Hausa grew by 3.4 million, reaching an all-time high of 18.6 million.

The BBC is responding to growing competition by investing in the quality of programmes at key times. Among major programme improvements for 2005 are extra editions of Network Africa and Africa Live. 'Africa Live is expanding the agenda by creating a platform where people of all descriptions across the continent can talk to each other about issues that really matter to their everyday lives,' says Jerry Timmins. 'Issues such as arranged marriage are hotly debated on the programme, which takes the BBC's coverage well beyond simply politics and economics.'

Investment in FM frequencies and partnerships is another crucial part of the competitive strategy. Programmes are now available on FM in African cities such as Abidjan, Accra, Bamako, Dakar, Freetown, Kigali, Maputo, Nairobi, Ouagadougou and Victoria (Seychelles).

The BBC is also extending interactivity in all language services and increasing multimedia investment, reflecting the importance of mobile phones in many African countries.

The BBC's strategy for Ghana typifies its approach and commitment to a continent where mass audiences are by no means taken for granted. It is launching another FM frequency there in 2005 and plans to strengthen partnerships with local broadcasters. A local SMS text messaging number was introduced in Ghana during the year and more such services are planned. New ways of delivering programme content include news alerts and headlines for mobile phone users. In Kenya, for example, subscribers can now access BBC international headlines and African football news on demand.' Kenya is a crucial market for us and we are constantly seeking new ways to serve our audience better,' says Joseph Warungu, Editor, BBC African Service. 'Now Kenyans can be kept updated through their mobile phones – an increasingly popular means of communication.'

Education and health

Alongside the BBC World Service's regular broadcasts, the BBC World Service Trust is carrying out a wide range of health, education and media development projects in Africa. The Trust's health campaigns developed in partnership with local broadcasters utilise mass media to increase knowledge about the threat of HIV/Aids and to promote sexual health among young people.

Education initiatives include Nigeria's Voices project, which explores issues of governance, rights and responsibilities in imaginative ways, including the country's first radio soap. A radio project in Somali, Macalinka Raadiyaha, has pioneered literacy education.

The Trust promotes development of independent media by providing training in journalism and managerial skills in countries, including Somalia, Sudan and Tanzania. In addition, the BBC has supported partnerships with local broadcasters by carrying out extensive training in 10 countries. Co-productions have been made with African partners such as Joy FM in Ghana, Ray Power in Nigeria and Radio 1 in Tanzania.

Pulse of Africa

The BBC's significance for African listeners was highlighted in a rare survey of their lifestyles and attitudes. 'They are not casual listeners but enthusiastic and loyal BBC fans in countries where radio listening dominates media consumption,' says Alan Booth, Controller, Marketing, Communications and Audiences. BBC World Service's 'Pulse of Africa' survey covered 10 countries from east to west, including some with the highest BBC audiences. The survey showed that in Tanzania over 50% of the population are regular BBC listeners and in Nigeria and Kenya over 30%.

The Pulse of Africa survey's insight into African lifestyles and attitudes showed that more than 90% of African people are proud of their continent. While many in the rest of the world see Africa as plagued by war and poverty, Africans are generally far more positive about their lives.

At the BBC Africa 2015 conference, jointly hosted by the BBC and the Corporation of London, the BBC pledged to take a lead in developing the media within Africa through the BBC World Service Trust. Opening the conference, BBC chairman Michael Grade welcomed the Africa Commission's backing to strengthen media capacity and programmemaking in Africa, building on the Trust's ground-breaking work. 'We in the BBC stand ready to do our part,' he said. 'This is a bold and exciting initiative to help African media realise its full potential.'

'No one should be in any doubt about the BBC's long-term commitment to Africa, both on radio and increasingly on multimedia platforms.'
The BBC is responding to growing competition by investing in programmes supported by strategic marketing campaigns Education initiatives include Nigeria's 'Voices' project The BBC is extending interactivity reflecting the importance of mobile phones in many African countries
BBC - Many voices, one world
A year in review
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