Mwamoyo Hamza, the chief of the VOA Swahili Service and Joan Mower, the head of Development and Training at the BBG, spoke today at the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Policy and Leadership-Public Diplomacy Council event on U.S. international broadcasting in Africa. They joined fellow panelist Ron Nixon, who covers broadcasting for the New York Times.
Observing that Africa includes seven of the world’s fastest growing economies, Mower drew attention to the importance of building U.S. economic connections with the continent. She discussed the growth of an FM-radio strategy for increasing VOA’s reach in the region, and highlighted a series of BBG media training programs supported by the U.S. Department of State, USAID, CDC and others federal agencies.
Hamza discussed the dramatic reach of digital media with younger, and increasingly more urban, demographic audiences. He highlighted the strong cultural connections for many young Africans with the United States and their aptitude for social media. As one illustration Hamza noted the multiplier effect of his own live-Tweeting for VOA during remarks made by the President of Tanzania Jakaya Kikwete. Hamza said VOA plays a vital role delivering news to audiences in Africa, where media has become increasingly segmented and partisan.
The three panelists spoke about media development in Africa, and the extensive Chinese investment in Africa. The panelists agreed that while Africans continue to rely primarily on radio and TV for news, information consumption habits are changing rapidly with the rise in cell phone use and mobile penetration.
Public Diplomacy Council President Don Bishop closed the session with the observation that broadcasting is on the leading edge in public diplomacy.