Radio in Africa: Tuned into the people and in tune with the future

By our News Team | 2023

With internet access still limited, millions of Africans are staying tuned to traditional radio. But digital audio options are increasing.

Trust, accessibility and flexibility continue to keep radio strong in Africa. While digital streaming and audio options like podcasting are growing – and already chipping away at traditional radio’s dominance as a source of information and entertainment in some regions – the consumer insights available point to a still cosy relationship between listener, medium and advertiser. 


While the relatively sophisticated South African media environment is certainly not a reflection of the rest of the continent, it is still the most measured and understood of Africa’s markets in terms of understanding the impact of digital and shifting consumer tastes.


Photo credit: Budgeron Bach via Pexels

Gary Whitaker, CEO of The Broadcast Research Council of South Africa (BRC), notes that “radio is still the number one go-to in terms of news and companionship”. However, it would be foolhardy not to consider how the audio space as a whole has been evolving in recent years as digital channels take hold. 


“From a BRC point of view, we are moving to thinking about radio more as an ‘audio’ space,” he told ‘Strategic Marketing for Africa’, the magazine of the African Marketing Confederation, in an interview published in the latest issue.


Define an ‘audio’ universe rather than a ‘radio’ universe


“One would argue that radio listenership over the years has reduced. Yes, it is still a mass medium and has the second-highest reach compared to the likes of television, but it has gradually come down. If, however, you redefine the universe and make it an audio universe, you’ll see it has grown substantially.” 


Whitaker says “there’s listening going on” – whether it’s listening to a podcast, downloading music or tuning in to the radio. This could be in a car or taxi, at home, at work, out jogging, in the gym, or walking home. This is why the BRC is increasingly shifting its methods and metrics to reflect more varied consumption habits, including a burgeoning appetite for digital consumption. 


Unfortunately, though, this level of insight is not always easy to come by in other parts of Africa. 


One pan-African study that bucks the lack-of-insight concern is a 2022 survey of 34 African countries by Afrobarometer, an independent, non-partisan research network.


Drawing on previous survey data dating back as far as 1999 and combining with fieldwork undertaken between 2019 and 2021 in African countries as diverse as Togo, Malawi, Lesotho, Ethiopia, Morocco and Nigeria, the researchers concluded that: “Radio remains overwhelmingly the most common source for news in Africa. On average across 34 surveyed countries, two-thirds (68%) of respondents tune in at least a few times a week.”

To find out more about the current state of radio in Africa, read the latest issue (Issue 4 2023) of ‘Strategic Marketing for Africa’. You can browse or download a free copy of the magazine here.

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    Dr Kin Kariisa

    Group CEO - Next Media

    Dr. Kin Kariisa is an extraordinary force at the helm of Next Media Services, a conglomerate encompassing NBS TV, Nile Post, Sanyuka TV, Next Radio, Salam TV, Next Communication, Next Productions, and an array of other influential enterprises. His dynamic role as Chief Executive Officer exemplifies his unwavering commitment to shaping media, business, and community landscapes.
    With an esteemed academic journey, Dr. Kariisa’s accolades include an Honorary PhD in exemplary community service from the United Graduate College inTexas, an MBA from United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya, a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering from Huazong University in China, and a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics from Makerere University.
    Dr. Kariisa pursued PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands. As a dynamic educator, he has shared his expertise as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at both Makerere University and Radboud University.

    Dr Kin did his PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radbond University in Nigmegen, Netherlands. He previously served as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and Radbond University in Netherlands.

    Dr Kin did his postgraduate courses in Strategic Business Management, Strategic Leadership Communication and Strategies for Leading Successful Change Initiatives at Harvard University, Boston USA.

    • Other current and previous roles played by Dr Kin Kariisa:
    • Lecturer of e-Government and Information Security to graduate students at Makerere University, Kampala and Radbond University in the Netherlands
    • Director of Eco Bank Uganda Limited, one of the largest banks in Africa
    • Chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters, an umbrella industry association for all Television, Radio and online broadcasters in Uganda.
    • Chairman of Board of Directors of Nile Hotel International, that owns the leading hotel in Uganda, Kampala Serena Hotel.
    • Chairman of Board of Directors of Soliton Telmec Uganda, the leading telecom company in Optic fibre business managing over 80% of optic fibre in Uganda.