- For Guinea, and many African countries, radio and word of mouth are a very powerful communications medium.
- Since gaining its independence in 1958, the country has been gripped by political violence and instability, poor governance, and an overall deteriorating economy.
- The new government declared that it wants to dramatically improve governance and increase citizen participation and engagement.
June 16, 2011—In an era of instant news and communication, it is difficult to imagine the challenges a country might face in reaching its people if newspapers, televisions, and computers were not available.
How do you disseminate news, ideas, and information to large numbers of people? Email? Tweet? Facebook?
For Guinea, and many African countries, it's still radio. A USAID study showed that radio and word of mouth play a powerful and unique role in Guinea, one of the poorest countries in the world.
Radio programs helped citizens and government officials connect in a country that has been polarized by ethnic tensions. “The voices of the most vulnerable, especially women and youth were amplified,” said Siaka Bakayoko, the Guinea country manager for the World Bank.
Training Journalists to Give Citizens a Voice
Guinea is at a crossroads following its first democratic elections in 50 years. Since gaining its independence in 1958, the country has been gripped by political violence and instability, poor governance, and an overall deteriorating economy. The new government declared that it wants to dramatically improve governance and increase citizen participation and engagement.
“It will be vital in managing the country's development, resources, and achieving a sustained peace,” said Ishac Diwan, Country Director for Guinea.
In order to facilitate this engagement and give ordinary citizens a space to raise their concerns, the World Bank Institute (WBI) collaborated with local radio stations and trained journalists to engage the population using interactive radio formats to discuss poverty reduction and connect government officials with citizens. This was part of the process of engaging Guinean stakeholders in the development of the country’s poverty reduction strategy.
Eric Fara Gaufory Milimono, a journalist from Radio Rural Nzerekore, traveled for three days by road from the interior of the country to arrive in Conakry, the capital city, to participate in the workshop.
The workshop series taught journalists to solicit and give voice to ordinary citizens, acquiring and sharing their perspectives, experiences, and their ideas about poverty. They were taught to engage listeners in dialogue about poverty reduction using community game shows, roundtables, call-in-shows, and radio soap operas.
“I would never have succeeded to produce this style of programming without this training,” said Facely Conde, a journalist from one of the area's most impoverished regions, Haute Guinea. Journalists representing all the major ethnic groups and regions worked together and produced more than 130 interactive call-in programs in four major local languages, and distributed these programs to all community radio stations nationwide.
Participants included scriptwriters, actors and producers for a local Guinean radio soap opera "Wontanara" which in the local language means “We are together.” After the training, the team developed a full script for a radio soap opera, integrating content on the country's poverty reduction strategy into their storyline. Four episodes have already aired in April 2011 and eight more are planned in summer 2011.
One young caller Nfamara Keita, commented, “I know I am poor when the mosquito bites me.” Another caller, Idriatou Camara a young mother of four said, “Poverty for my family is the lack of condiments in the stew.”
Building on Tradition
WBI also trained 33 traditional communicators, known as griots, from across the country. Griots have traditionally played a role as oral historians, passing along news and information. They used songs, story-telling, community-theater, town hall meetings and more to help communicate the country’s poverty reduction strategy.
“The population trusts traditional communicators at the community level and with this approach we can be confident that ordinary citizens will be informed and can be convinced to play their role to implement the strategy,” said Mr. Yasane Kerfalla, Guinea's Minister of Finance and Economy.
The population trusts traditional communicators at the community level and with this approach we can be confident that ordinary citizens will be informed and can be convinced to play their role to implement the strategy.Mr. Yasane Kerfalla, Guinea's Minister of Finance and Economy
“This is an important step for Guineans to begin building consensus and a new social contract, enhancing the legitimacy of their newly elected democratic government, and rebuilding trust by and through inclusive dialogue for improved government effectiveness and sustained peace and development,” said Ozong Agborsangaya-Fiteu, Senior Operations Officer in WBI’s fragile states practice.
WBI continues to work in Guinea to strengthen long term institutional capacity for social accountability by building the skills of civil society organizations, media organizations and public officials. It does this by working through and leveraging local and regional partners such as Search for Common Ground (SFCG), and IED Afrique, the francophone partner of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability (ANSA). WBI also uses traditional media and innovative forms of information and communications technology (ICT), as well as south-south practitioner knowledge exchanges to strengthen the participation of ordinary citizens in fragile states.
WBI’s work in Guinea was part of the World Bank’s reengagement efforts in the country following the recent democratic elections, and supports the Africa region’s commitment to social accountability, as embedded in its demand for good governance strategy.