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Francisco Barreto de Carvalho


Since its independence Guinea-Bissau has endeavoured to restore, and in many cases re-create her «national communication system». In recognising the prime importance of communication in the overall socio-economic development of the country, the Government has attributed high priority to the development of the national communication system, which will play a dynamic role in providing essential support to furthering the following national objectives:

Consequently, one of the prime objectives of the Guinea-Bissau Government has been to create a fully-fledged communication network to cover the entire country.

In 1991, following years of intense efforts, the Country finally created a social communication infrastructure that had certain amount of potentials, but the country did not have the means necessary for effectively using it in the service of development.

For Guinea-Bissau as for any predominantly agricultural country, communication is indispensable for making a number of development conditions possible, including technology transfer for progress in agricultural, animal breeding and fisheries practices, improving health care services, for the linking of knowledge and scientific experience, local culture and farm practices, etc.

A very rapid analysis will make it possible for us to measure the full extent of the shortcomings that characterised the Guinea-Bissau communication system.

These shortcomings merely reflected the extremely difficult situation throughout the country, in spite of the fact that all the reports that were made at that time with regard to Guinea-Bissau indicated that there had been a clear improvement compared to the previous decade: Food products were in greater supply, the economy had been liberalised and stabilised, social relations were less strained and political life was more democratic.

In spite of these improvements, and notwithstanding international aid and the efforts of the Government, the country’s situation remained extremely problematic, with regard to health care infrastructure and consumer prices, as well as the nation’s industry, which seemed to be unable to effectively take off. Guinea-Bissau’s GDP per capita at this time barely reached US$ 120 to 130 per year.

Communication needs were at four different levels:

1. Needs that might be characterised as urgent, as they are linked to the necessity of providing farmers with timely technical information, such as weather information, farming schedules, pest attacks and epidemics they might cause or the changing of farm product prices. At the time there were no means to provide information to farmers regarding these questions;

2. Universal needs, such as those that exist in every other country, including education, extension and information in the areas of agriculture, animal breeding, fisheries, public health, nutrition, etc.;

3. Need for systematic information modalities for reaching the country’s entir population, a large part of which was completely isolated due to the lack of adequate means of transportation, and its geographical location (part of which is an archipelago, whilst another winds its way among innumerable streams and rivers);

4. A more complex need that involved the expression of the cultural identities of rural communities, which is a basic condition for development, and is coupled with the need (without being necessarily contradictory) to reinforce the feeling of national unity.

Guinea-Bissau, like all the countries surrounding it, has an extremely diverse ethnic base, made up of the Balantes, Manjagues, Fulas, Papel, Bijagos, Beafada and other ethnic groups. The country has no language that might be considered to be a true common language, including Portuguese. In addition, the Creole dialect, which is spoken by managers and development officers, cannot be understood by a large part of the rural population.

The objective of the country’s authorities was to succeed in affirming unity through diversity. Guinea-Bissau, though a small country (36 000 km2) is subject to many centrifugal forces.

The national radio is unable to reach the country’s entire territory, and many people have adopted the habit of tuning in to Senegal Radio instead.

It is within this context that the Guinea-Bissau Government appealed to FAO for assistance in creating a multimedia communication strategy.

The project involved aiding the Guinea-Bissau Government in defining a social and educational multi-media communication strategy in the area of rural development, and in formulating a medium-term project involving the development of the principal instruments for communicating with the rural world, in particular rural radio, video and the different audio-visual support methods for education extension and group communication.

In order to accomplish this, particular attention was to be devoted to:

The expected outcomes of these project activities were the following:

Coordination of the project activities was entrusted to a consultant specialised in communication who had all-around versatility. In addition to carrying out his coordination activities, and his specific contribution to each of the other above-mentioned activities, his tasks consisted of:

An evaluation mission was carried out by a representative of the Information Division (GII) of FAO Headquarters in Rome at the conclusion of the project.

I. The Process of Designing the National Communication for Development Policy in Guinea-Bissau

In 1990, the Guinea-Bissau Government presented a request to FAO for assistance in the area of communication in the rural environment.

An exploratory mission, on the basis of an evaluation of the possibilities and limits of the existing tools, as well as the country’s communication needs, was able to measure the full extent of the shortcomings that characterised the Bissau-Guinean communication system.

This mission reached the conclusion that there was an urgent need to support the Guinea-Bissau Government in elaborating a multimedia communication strategy that could satisfy the needs of the rural world. The activities undertaken by the project were effectively launched in August 1992. Their essential objective was to assist the Guinea-Bissau’s authorities in defining a multi-media strategy involving social and educational communication in the field of rural development, and in formulating a medium-term development plan regarding the principal means of communication with the rural world.

This project concentrated mainly on the following activities:

In order to achieve the project’s major objective, namely, defining a national strategy with regard to communication for development, four regional meetings were organised, with the following objectives:

Each of these meetings, which lasted four days, was attended by twenty to thirty participants from the following regions:

Five sector studies were carried out at the same time by national consultants, dealing with the following subjects:

In carrying out their assessments, the consultants examined the current status of communication for development, analysed assets and constraints, and offered recommendations with regard to communication for development strategy.

Contacts were begun and have been maintained with the bilateral and multilateral cooperation partners, in order to directly involve them in the implementation and running of the seminar that would define the national strategy regarding communication for development. These partners include organisations such as UNDP, UNICEF, WHO, UICN, the EEC, USAID and the diplomatic missions of the following countries: USA, Sweden, France, Portugal, the Netherlands and Canada.

This long process finally resulted into holding from 30 January to 6 February of the seminar for the definition of a national strategy regarding communication for development. One of the principal purposes of the seminar consisted in summarising the experience that had been accumulated, with a view to placing social communication at the service of the transformation of Guinean society.

II. The Regional Bureau’s Objectives with Regard to Communication Strategy

The mission of the national communication for development strategy is to serve as an evolutionary and flexible reference framework, to inform on projects by means of dialogue held between the actors in development, so that the ideas and capacities of beneficiaries are taken into account, in order to mobilise them (social communication) and to allow them to successfully carry out development actions (educational communication).

Its mission, furthermore, is to facilitate the establishment of a climate of confidence between the Government and its partners, both internal and external, in order to achieve a concerted action for dealing with the problem of national development, and to eliminate, in addition, the divisions between "decision-makers", "executors" and "beneficiaries".


General objectives of the national strategy regarding communication for development are:

Furthermore, the national strategy regarding communication for development must contribute to the consolidation of democracy, including making the nation’s citizens aware of their rights and duties, and making the Government aware of its responsibilities and the extent of its authority.


The national strategy regarding communication for development must contribute to the implementation of the Government’s priority sector policies in the areas of education, public health, energy, agriculture, housing conditions and other infrastructures.

The national strategy regarding communication for development must support all of the Guinea-Bissau development sectors and areas, particularly:

This support must be concretely shown by:

III. Potentials and Limiting Factors


The conditions for the implementation of the national strategy on communication for development have been very favourable, given the willingness of all the participants to take an active part in the development process. This is true with regard to the Government, which implemented the project, and to the development partners, the sponsors, the NGOs and the people themselves.


However, there have also been serious obstacles to the implementation of a national strategy regarding communication for development, notably:

IV. The Action Programme for the Implementation of the National Communication for Development Policy




V. The Implementation Methodology for the National Strategy of Communication for Development

The methodology underlying the implementation of the national strategy of communication for development was adapted to the cultural, economic, social and religious conditions in Guinea-Bissau, and to their stage of development. It was, nevertheless, based on the following four basic principles.


Support to local institutions and cooperation with local NGOs involved in communication was considered a priority. This support was to be integrated within the communication for development programmes and sectorial projects. The partners were intended to be the go-betweens in the actions undertaken.


All communication activity in the area of communication for development should include an interactive dimension, involving the reflecting, receiving and proposing ideas and information.


All the available media (the press, radio, television, cinema, video, theatre, dance, singing and storytellers) should be used, depending on the public concerned.

In areas with a low literacy level, direct contact should be favoured, by using local communication systems (LCS) as well as audio-visual methods. Traditional media (griots, marionettes...) and traditional communication channels (confessional communities, cultural events, etc.) would also be favoured, in order to reach the largest possible number of persons;


The communication for development activities should eventually be taken over by the development actors.

VI. Contribution and Support by the Guinea-Bissau Government

The Ministry in charge of Communication was responsible for carrying out the project, designating the organisation that would implement the strategy, and naming its national director.

In addition, the Government undertook to:

VII. The Implementation Process of the National Communication for Development Policy

Despite the fact that it had been approved, the national strategy of communication for development could not be applied for the following reasons:

This political and military crisis has profoundly affected Guinea-Bissau’s economy and society. It has had dramatic consequences in all areas of the country’s activity, and has seriously undermined the progress that had been made, particularly on the macro-economic level, and with regard to the confidence that had been created among economic operators and development partners. An evaluation of the impact that this crisis has had indicates the following results:

The implementation of a strong policy of support to the communication sectors would appear to be necessary at this point. It would require above all the updating of the communication for development national strategy. The Government already has in this respect requested the assistance of FAO for aid in its effort to re-launch its communication for development activities, as well as the updating of the already created national strategy, an indispensable condition for achieving sustainable human development.

With regard to this assistance, the Government has requested that a mission be sent to work together with the national counterpart in order to:

UNICEF, in its Operational Plan For The 2003-2007 Programme, has included a project dealing with communication for development, whose general objective is to increase the intervention capabilities of social communication organisations; develop the traditional communication channels; coordinate social communication actions; and implement communication for development policies and strategies in order to bring about changes in behaviour in favour of children.

This project has three sub-projects:

UNESCO has agreed to contribute to determining the country’s needs with regard to the rehabilitation of its communication infrastructures (the commercial press, as well as the audio-visual press and the public and private press), to an estimation of the costs involved in rehabilitating and equipping the press, as well as a determination of the needs involved in training journalists from the public and private press in the area of culture for peace. This training, which will be offered to different categories of journalists, will be carried out in seminars, training courses, days for reflection and panels on cultural themes for peace, including ethics, the journalist’s professional code of ethics, as well as the journalist’s role in the restoration and consolidation of peace in Guinea-Bissau.

The UNESCO assistance contributes to:

With regard to bilateral cooperation, France has resumed its assistance to Guinea-Bissau’s national television, and Portugal has been assisting the country’s private radio networks, its television and the public radio networks in their re-structuring and acquiring technical equipment following the conflict.

All of these actions are in accordance with the document regarding the national strategy of communication for development.

VIII. Assets and Constraints of the Elaboration Methodology of the National Communication for Development Policy


The intervention of the national strategy of communication for development is part of a complex framework, inasmuch as it uses specific assets in order to contribute to:

Conditions are very favourable at the present time for the implementation of the national strategy of communication for development, given that all the participants in the development process have the will to carry this through.

There has been a remarkable degree of participation in the elaboration of the national strategy of communication for development on the part of government, the sponsors, the NGOs and the other development partners.


Serious obstacles do exist, nevertheless, concerning the implementation of the national strategy of communication for development:

IX. Recommendations to Countries Interested in Elaborating a National Communication for Development Policy

The elaboration of the strategy of communication for development is a complex process involving the encouragement of the country’s population to participate in the definition and implementation of the nation’s major development orientations, by favouring a dialogue between all the development actors with regard to these actions.

Consequently, a country that plans to elaborate the national strategy of communication for development must:

1. Take into account the challenges involved, that include increasing the quality of life of the population, based upon the indicators for this quality that have been decided upon by the people themselves;

2. Adapt itself to the variety and diversity of all the actors concerned, namely:

3. Meet the needs that arise at each step in the elaboration of the strategy;

4. Mobilise the existing communication tools and networks in function of:

5. Use the different forms of communication (mass, local, traditional and institutional) as well as their tools in an organised, systematic and interactive manner, in order to:

6. Include communication for development as a priority in the Government’s work programme;

7. Make sure that the national strategy of communication for development will serve as a reference framework for all the partners involved;

8. Arrange for a communication section to be included in all areas of the country’s global policy, in order to make the bi-directional circulation of information possible;

9. Create an efficiently operating coordination structure. This structure must be both technically and politically flexible, and have a specific mandate as well as significant financial means. This structure should be presided over by the Prime Minister, and should effectively begin its work as soon as the action programme is approved;

10. Set-up a mechanism for evaluating the strategy throughout the implementation process, namely, by means of summaries, evaluation and modification;

11. Entrust the research activities to simple coordination structures, so as to guarantee the cohesion of the actions undertaken and minimise costs;

12. Involve all the partners in underwriting the costs of communication for development;

13. Take responsibility for all those persons working in the area of communication for development, so that the specific nature of their activity will be recognised, valued and institutionally regulated.

X. Lessons Learnt

The following lessons can be learned from the Guinea-Bissau case.


The national communication strategy could not be implemented in Guinea-Bissau due to the reasons that have been mentioned above.

In conclusion, a certain number of questions should nevertheless be asked:

What good is it to propose that women undertake family planning if contraceptive methods and medical follow-up are not made available to them? What good is it to encourage young people to use contraceptives in order to prevent AIDS if these are not easily available on the market? What good is it to propose that farmers use animal traction if there are not enough cattle in the area? What good is it to urge market gardeners to increase their production if the necessary marketing structures do not exist? What good is it to encourage parents to send their children to school if the closest school is fifteen kilometres away, and if they have to pay the teachers? What good is it to encourage coal miners to stop their destructive production if no alternative activities are offered to them, and if the demand for coal increases? What good is it to "sensitise" the population to the sustainable management of their environment if no concrete means to do this is offered to them? What good is it to build infrastructures if they are subsequently destroyed in a conflict?

Practically all the organisations that work for development in our African countries, in the agriculture, health care, education and environment sectors, have long been aware that our women and men need concrete examples rather than words, in spite of the fact that oral discourse is an integral part of their culture.

Communication could accomplish a great deal for development, but on condition that in a parallel manner, the necessary services be present in the field, and that means of apprenticeship, tools, organisational capacities, financing, decisions and exemplary policies be present as well. In most cases unfortunately, these are all lacking, and the people are waiting to see that "those" individuals doing the talking demonstrate that they will help them do what is necessary.

The elaboration of a strategy of communication for development must not be an end in itself, a merely abstract operation. In order to bring it to fruitition, the specific mechanisms involved in decision-making, as well as the allocation of financial and logistic resources and the proper economic, social and political behaviour must be taken into account. Elaborating a strategy of communication for development merely for the pleasure of elaborating it is evidently a waste of time and effort. What will give meaning to the implementation of a strategy of communication for development will be carrying it out, and if it proves impossible to integrate the parameters that constitute political determinations and decision-making in this strategy, then not only will all the available possibilities not have been used to full advantage, but there is a grave risk of a total failure.

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