Communication for development Knowledge

Posted September 1996

International workshop on the development of rural radio in Africa
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
10-14 June 1996

Declaration and Plan of Action


African countries are confronted by many significant changes politically, economically and socially. These changes have been brought about by a process of democratisation and pluralism, a desire for peace, decentralisation of economic and political decision-making and the encouragement of the private sector to take over many functions previously undertaken by the state.

In this context, the major challenges to be met are the need for food security for a rapidly growing population, to improve agricultural production while preserving the natural resource base; to improve standards of living, health, education and nutrition, particularly for women and children; to create income and employment opportunities; and to preserve cultural heritage.

These challenges will not be met without active, popular participation of the population, for which communication is a strategic factor.

The Windhoek (1991) and Bamako (1993) Declarations emphasized the necessity for developing independent and pluralistic radio and press. Radio remains the most popular, viable, accessible and cost-effective means of communication for rural people. Radio can overcome the barriers of distance, illiteracy and language diversity better than any other media.

There have been a number of developments that have led to significant changes in the use of radio for reaching rural audiences. The introduction of new technology, the reduction in cost of FM transmitters and the replacement of state broadcasting monopolies by private sector and association-based radio has, in recent years, led to the development of new forms of radio both in urban centres and in rural communities.

This evolution has provided opportunities for a diversity of approaches to the use of radio, and much more effective coverage of audiences in terms of territory and meeting differing socio-economic and linguistic needs. From now on, all those who are involved in development, particularly those operating at the grassroots level, can make use of this form of communication, either by playing an active role in the conception and production of rural programmes for broadcast by existing radio stations or by establishing their own radio stations. Despite these promising trends, rural radio nevertheless suffers from initiatives that are too widely dispersed and from lack of resources.

Today rural radio is at a crossroads. Decisions must be made and a number of problems addressed in order to allow rural radio to develop in a coordinated manner so that it may fulfil its mission to provide information and opportunity for dialogue and contribute to rural development:

Finally it is essential that all those involved in rural development (governments, international partners, NGOs, local groups and associations, the private sector, etc.) should support and encourage the development of rural radio in Africa. To achieve this it is necessary to identify all available means for establishing mechanisms for co-operation and follow-up which will allow the identification and mobilization, in a co-ordinated and complementary way, of all appropriate human, technical and financial resources. One such mechanism could be to find a linkage with the UN Secretary General's Special Initiative for Africa.

We invite all partners in development to consider this "Ouagadougou Plan of Action" as a framework within which to define and implement actions for the development of rural radio in Africa.

Plan of action

1. Legal and institutional mechanisms

Basis for action

The development of rural radio at national, regional and local level to meet the needs of rural people, implies a respect for pluralism by the State and others. It also requires a concerted effort to develop a more coordinated development of rural radio stations which at the present time operate within many different legal and regulatory frameworks and under different levels of financing.

It is therefore essential, at a time when new radio stations are rapidly multiplying in both urban and rural areas, that appropriate political, legal and regulatory measures be adopted at national, regional and local levels in order to harmonize the legal status and define the mission and terms of reference for the operation of rural radio. Licensing and allocation of transmission frequencies must be awarded on a statutory basis and the formation of networks should be encouraged.

Furthermore, the adoption of appropriate legal statutes will enable rural radio stations to acquire administrative, financial and editorial autonomy while maintaining a general public service mission.

These legal and regulatory changes should be accompanied by institutional measures that can make it possible for rural radio stations to fully assume their role in promoting and sustaining rural development. To this end, all development actions should be associated with determining the direction and definition of radio programmes to ensure that the themes of the programmes and the manner in which they are treated reflect the diversity of needs and the multiplicity of opinions and approaches of rural radio stations.

Objective 1: for each country to establish an appropriate legal, regulatory and institutional framework in order to favour the development of rural radio in its many forms.


  1. To define and put into place national development communication policies. To define the role and function of rural radio stations within the framework of this development communication policy in order to legitimize the roles of rural radio in the overall rural development process and to commit all national and international partners to a joint action covering the information and communication needs of all sectors of rural development.
  2. To identify, study and adapt the legal statutes that are most appropriate to the roles of rural radio in its various forms.
  3. To adopt regulatory measures aimed at granting and increasing administrative, editorial and financial autonomy of rural radio public structures.
  4. To establish terms of reference, supervise the implementation of public service missions, deal with matters relating to legislation and the granting of permits, licences and allocation of transmission frequencies and to regulate advertising revenue in order that radio stations derive some benefit.
  5. To propose legal, institutional and technical provisions which will promote the creation of a network of rural radio stations at the local, regional and national levels. These provisions should make optimal use of all existing resources in order to meet the needs of listeners, ensure the best possible territorial and linguistic coverage and reinforce a democratic and participatory approach.
  6. To set up a joint authority for intersectorial consultation and coordination between all those concerned, in order to develop programming which recognizes listener interests and which assists rural radio stations to cover themes relating to economic, social and cultural development. Such an authority would also help rural radio stations to gain access to the technical, financial and human resources required.

2. Infrastructure, equipment and technological choices

Basis for action

The survival of rural radio stations is threatened by the lack of resources available for equipment and technical infrastructure. As a result of this there are serious operational and maintenance problems.

In general, rural radiao stations do not have their own specific equipment and they experience great difficulty in obtaining spare parts.

To ensure sustainable development of rural radio it is essential to establish, at national level, a development plan for technical equipment and infrastructure. At both national and regional levels, appropriate technical solutions should be sought in order to make rational use of existing equipment.


  1. To establish a system for circulating information about existing technical facilities. The ITU, in cooperation with other agencies should be invited to produce a manual giving technical parameters for transmitters in order to improve management of frequencies at national level. The manual could also provide guidelines for the design, construction, accoustics and air-conditioning of technical sites.
  2. To develop a plan which favours FM transmission for broadcasting
  3. Each country to seek means by which import duties on all broadcasting equipment destined for rural radio are reduced or even eliminated.
  4. To implement, with the support of UNIDO a series of needs assessment and feasibility studies with a view to establishing local industrial units for the manufacture of radio equipment, receivers and consumables (batteries, tapes and cassettes). These studies should lead to the formulation of projects in a form which can be presented to funding partners.
  5. To undertake a feasibility study into the possibility of establishing central purchasing in order to reduce cost of acquiring radio equipment.

3. New directions for training and research

Basis for action

  1. Training and research are crucial to the development of rural radio in Africa. At the national level they must be considered a priority.
  2. A research and training sector must be established in each country to cover the needs of all those involved in rural radio. It must carry out a research programme on all aspects of the development of rural radio and set up a programme that takes into account the training needs of all categories of specialists: producers, technicians, documentalists, managers, trainers and audience research specialists; also for the development of the new electronic technologies. This training programme should also address all the new techniques and methods of participatory research with rural communities. It should also take into account the need for other means of communication in order to extend the impact of rural radio on the ground.
  3. At inter-African level, a mechanism for coordination and support to national research and training programmes should be put in place with the support of international agencies. A network of researchers and African rural radio trainers should be set up and also an international resource centre. CIERRO could carry out this duty for francophone countries and similar bodies could be created for anglophones and lusophones.
  4. At international level collaboration between the principal agencies concerned with rural radio in Africa should be reinforced in order to coordinate research and training support to the different countries and to inter-African organizations.


  1. To evaluate the training needs of each station, taking into account the specific nature of the station, the personnel involved and the need to develop the production and broadcasting capability of the station. Develop a training strategy.
  2. To develop a national training programme for each country taking into account the needs identified at station level.
  3. Set up, or improve, training structures for rural radio at national level.
  4. Improve access to training for women working in rural radio and also for personnel from community, commercial or NGO radio stations.
  5. Establish tertiary level training at CIERRO
  6. Develop a training programme in marketing at CIERRO for studying rural audiences, how to develop projects and how to conduct participatory research.
  7. Develop and strengthen programmes for training of trainers.
  8. Set up structures for the coordination and follow up of training at national and inter-African level.
  9. Develop at inter-African level a data file of resource personnel and institutions.
  10. Support the URTNA proposal for the establishment of a training institution similar to CIERRO for anglophone countries.
  11. Develop a research programme covering the following points:
  12. Seek finance and funding partners in order to establish a programme of research.
  13. Establish a mechanism by which the research results can be shared.

4. International coordination for the implementation of the Plan of Action

Basis for action

International coordination and partnerships to implement this plan of action are essential in order to mobilize technical and financial resources. This cooperation will promote rational and cost-effective initiatives, avoid duplication and maximize the use of existing resources. This international collaboration will co-operate with existing institutions currently working to support rural radio and rural communication. Institutions such as CIERRO will continue to play an important role in this process. Particular attention will be given to the UN System-wide Special Initiative on Africa which promotes the development of human resources, especially women, health, sustainable development, peace and democracy. Rural radio plays a central role in this endeavour and should continue to do so.


  1. To develop in accordance with the recommendations of the workshop a package of project proposals for which funding should be sought
  2. To explore and establish appropriate mechanisms for consultation among all partners, including governments, aid agencies, professional groups, NGOs and the private sector.
  3. To organize a meeting of donors in order to submit project proposals relating to rural radio. International funding agencies such as the World Bank, UNDP, and the EU should be invited to take an active role.
  4. To complement the meeting of donors, the Plan of Action should be submitted to the UN System-wide Special Initiative on Africa in view of the important role that radio will play in achieving the SSIA's objectives.

The conclusions of the Ouagadougou Workshop should also be presented at the next round table discussions on communication for development organized by UNESCO and scheduled for September 1996 in Harare which will be attended by UN Agencies, NGOs and universities.

As organizers of the Workshop, URTNA, FAO and the Government of Burkina Faso are required to implement follow up to the Workshop and to identify the necessary funding required.

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