The Growing Pains of Community Radio in Africa - Emerging Lessons Towards Sustainability


  • Peter da Costa


Community radio is considered as an intervention strategy of choice for deepening participation and community ownership. Donors have funded a proliferation of community radio projects in the Global South, prompted by stories attesting to the power of radio as a tool for social change. The evidence suggests that beyond empowering communities, community radio can catalyse behaviour change and impact positively on wider development outcomes. In practice, the record has been mixed, with sustainability a critical challenge. A recent evaluation found that radio stations created through top-down initiatives tend not to survive when external funding dries up. Where such stations do survive, their purpose often becomes different from what was originally intended. Only in a handful of cases have previously aid-dependent radio stations become sustainable. Informed by insights from practitioners, and evaluation reports and scholarly literature, this article draws some emerging lessons.