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Radio Across Borders: New Levels of Connectivity Uniting a Region’s Youth

2012 May 18
Generation Grand Lacs includes Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Generation Grand Lacs includes Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

By Ashley Murphy

In today’s endlessly globalized world, people are becoming increasingly connected to each other, with youth at the forefront of this communication revolution. These new levels of connectivity can have potentially negative effects, allowing youth – a population both malleable and vulnerable – to take on the role of an agent of instability. Yet this connectivity can also be mobilized in a constructive way by helping youth be catalysts for change.

SFCG’s Generation Grands Lacs (GGL) capitalizes on the latter concept; it is a regional radio program connecting Great Lakes’ youth, which represent more than half of the regional population, via a positive outlet. The program seeks to break down ideas that fuel stereotypes about “the other” and in turn create a safe and expressive platform where youth can recognize commonalities that unite them across borders. Through such unity, dissatisfaction and unrest can be quelled to mitigate conflict and promote peace.

Generation Grand Lacs Interview.

Generation Grand Lacs Interview.

To achieve this, GGL is broadcast live every Saturday through five local radio stations in Rwanda, Burundi, and Democratic Republic of the Congo. Each program is hosted by two journalists of different nationalities that rotate between partner radio stations in Kigali, Bujumbura, Goma and Kinshasa discussing issues relevant to youth throughout the region.

One of these journalists is Pacifique. Upon meeting this shy, young man from Burundi, you would not perceive Pacifique as a radio personality, a job that requires boldness and openness. Yet he holds one of the ten coveted spots as a GGL presenter. Originally, Pacifique went to university to study law, but his interest in communication led him to forego his career path to pursue journalism, seeing the benefits of this media platform. He began working at Burundi’s Radio Isanganiro in July 2010, and then began representing GGL this past September.

As a GGL journalist, he receives constant feedback and encouragement, enticing him to remain in the field and progress. Yet working with GGL requires Pacifique to work hard to earn this praise. Begin a GGL journalist is a significantly greater commitment than hosting a typical radio program. This is largely the result of the program’s regional reach; the team that comprises GGL is scattered throughout the region rather than confined to a single office space, requiring more effort on the part of the team to remain connected at all times.

With this regional aspect, the internet becomes the link which keeps them connected. It is therefore no wonder that the program heavily utilizes Facebook as a tool to connect the GGL team with its listenership. Posts on its Facebook page summarize the weekly discussion topics, encouraging followers to comment and share the discussions with their friends.

Dialogue between youth of different nationalities is not only encouraged via the Facebook page; listeners are also able to call in to ask questions and give their opinions while the show is on-air. These questions and comments are presented in a variety of languages, thus enticing youth to call in and share their perspectives. From this, listeners are able to gain awareness of the diversity of opinions and thoughts throughout the region. Diaspora groups are also able to listen and call in, as the program is streamed via the internet by radio stations in each participating country.

The levels of connectivity presented by GGL are immense: a Facebook page, live internet steaming, and multi-lingual radio programming unite an entire region, just as they unite the journalists that work to bring the program to the region each week.

Pacifique, a Burundi GGL radio journalist.

Pacifique, a Burundi GGL radio journalist.

To Pacifique, this cross-border unity is important. Working with Rwandans and Congolese gives him greater perspective and adds a cross-cultural communication dimension to his reporting, which in turn affects the way he works at his local radio station.

Pacifique, like any performer, gets nervous with the enormous responsibility that GGL represents. Through the program, he is not just communicating with and disseminating information to his fellow Burundians, he is rather representing the entire region. Pacifique says he can feel the impact of this responsibility and the weight it bears each time he is poised to present.

Confidence, both in himself and in the success of his radio program, is the key to his success.

Ashley Murphy is an international intern with SFCG in Kigali, Rwanda. She holds a bachelor’s degree from American University in International Studies.

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