Impact Assessment

MSE Radio Programmes in Uganda and Ghana, 2004

    The radio industry in Uganda was first liberalised in 1993, but a tradition remained of producing programmes in the studio. Many new stations started up, focusing mainly on music content, and increasingly struggled to differentiate themselves from each other. Meanwhile, listeners were facing a number of important issues in their daily lives, but had little opportunity to express their concerns. The project persuaded the management, initially of one radio station, to invest in equipment and a small travel budget, so that its reporters could go out and interview people in their place of work.

    This approach proved to be highly successful, in that people in markets and elsewhere were very happy to talk about the policies and regulations affecting them. Sometimes, the discussions became so animated, between the groups involved, that the journalist had to cool things down! The important thing for the radio station was that people wanted to listen to programmes that contained interviews with people like them; they could phone in to contribute their own opinion. Government spokespeople and other key resource people could be invited to respond on-air.

    Seeing the impacts on listener figures, other radio stations copied the format; by mid-2004, 19 commercial stations were broadcasting a total of 22 radio programmes focused on issues of importance to people in small businesses. A listener survey found that 7 million people in socio-economic groups C, D and E were listening to these programmes on a regular basis; as a result, commercial sponsors were happy to sponsor the programmes and make them fully self-sustaining.

    Summary of results
    The project trained journalists in identifying the hot stories - which mostly related to Business Environment issues - and then running with them to explore them in more detail. Sometimes, this resulted in 'campaigns', leading directly to actual policy change. In 2000, for example, the Government drafted a series of regulations that would have eliminated most of the current players from the production and distribution of milk. In one suburb of Kampala alone, about 50,000 outlets would have been forced out of business, and about 300,000 people cut off from a viable supply of fresh milk. This became a very pressing issue for all involved; thanks to the activism of the radio station, the policy was reviewed, and ultimately shelved.

    Similarly, bicycle-based transporting is a major industry, with about 30,000 operating in Kampala alone. But the way they were taxed changed in 2001; it was contracted out to private collectors, leading to a dramatic rise in the actual taxes paid by the transporters. Those who did not pay faced physical intimidation. Thanks to a media campaign, this policy was also reversed.

    By ensuring that the radio station is responsible for generating content, the programmes become locally relevant; while SEMA had initially thought that the programmes would focus on business information, they were thus able to evolve in a demand-led way. In practice, this has often meant an increasing focus on Business Environment issues, leading to dialogue between the parties involved. One station, for example, found that small businesses were being plagued by visits from bogus tax collectors; the Uganda Revenue Authority was able to respond, explaining on air how people could tell whether someone was a genuine tax collector.

    Action research in Ghana found that the M¿Adwumayi program did influence local and national government decision makers on issues and services such as utilities and infrastructure and resulted in specific policy changes that improved the business environment for MSEs and led to business growth. In addition, programs on the benefits of registering a businesses and paying taxes resulted in a significant increase in registered, tax paying enterprises.

    Associated Activities and Documents
    »Using Radio to Address Policy Constraints in Uganda and Ghana, 2004