Celebrating VOA’s Swahili Service at 50

BBG Gov. Victor Ashe, left, presents a plaque marking the 50th anniversary of VOA’s Swahili Service to Mwamoyo Hamza, the service’s chief. Looking on, left to right, are Rebecca McMenamin, acting director of the VOA Language Programming Directorate, and Gwen Dillard, director of the VOA Africa Division.

BBG Governor Victor Ashe joined in celebrating the 50th Anniversary of VOA’s Swahili Service, marking the milestone with congratulations and a plaque on behalf of the board on July 12 at BBG headquarters in Washington.

Ashe met with the staff of the service, which began taping weekly programs in 1961 before launching a live 30-minute Swahili-language daily show the following year. Swahili was the first African language service in VOA’s Africa Division.

“We congratulate you on your 50th anniversary of broadcasting,” read the plaque, which was accepted on behalf of the staff by Mwamoyo Hamza, chief of the service.

“Since your first broadcast on May 15, 1962, the VOA Swahili Service’s objective journalism, radio, and digital programming and commitment to informing the people of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi about their countries and the world have earned you the trust of your audience,” the plaque read.

The Swahili Service produces 9.5 hours of original radio programming per week and has a strong presence on the Internet.

VOA Swahili programs are carried by 10 FM affiliates, including two top-rated FM stations in Kenya and Tanzania.  In addition to its Washington staff, the service has 11 stringers in target countries.

Audience size has grown as the language has spread westward from the East African coast.  The original target countries were Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda.  Today the target area includes the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi. And the service’s reach extends even farther than that, including to the United Arab Emirates.