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Zambia: Radio brings power to the people

By Chipulu Sipalo in Lusaka
Posted on Monday, 2 December 2013 17:58

Komboni Radio… akuna kulala (there is no sleeping)!” reverberates the announcer’s voice from a tinny speaker at a makeshift tavern in Lusaka’s sprawling Kalingalinga township.

We are the people and the people want a radio where they can speak

Locals gather to enjoy locally brewed beer and listen to the radio station, one of Lusaka’s newest and most popular, affectionately tagged, ‘the people’s radio station.’

The chief executive of Komboni Radio – the name derived from a slang version of the word ‘compound’, as slums are popularly called – is Lesa Kasoma.

Her radio’s headquarters is a two-bedroom house in the densely populated Kamwala neighbourhood.

The station is only a few months old but it has already carved out a space within the heavily competitive airwaves of Lusaka’s 23 registered radio stations.

“The people themselves drive this station,” says Kasoma, 36, who founded Komboni with the aim of bringing the often marginalised listeners into mainstream broadcast media.

“The people don’t have to be part of the radio station. People are the radio station. Komboni Radio is for the people and the voice of the people.”

Official statistics say that 80% of the city’s 2.2 million dwellers live in slums.

The station, which is run by a lean staff and does not set an agenda for its phone-ins, aims to reach this segment.

One way it does this is by using street language, a cocktail of local languages Nyanja and Bemba mixed with popular English.

Komboni Radio entered the market with the lowest advertising rates in the industry – as low as $2 per slot.

It is also offering small-scale entrepreneurs the possibility of collective advertising.

However, this is fast changing as large companies, especially in the mobile telecommunications sector, see huge opportunities in Komboni Radio’s strong links with the population.

The radio station often uses local musicians as DJs, helping to give it its popularity and also in the hope of encouraging unemployed young people to look to art and music.

Two months after its inception, more than 9,000 artists had registered their songs for airplay promotion.

“It’s the people themselves that are squeezing out other radio stations,” says Kasoma.

“We are the people and the people want a radio where they can speak [and] choose their own music.”●

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