The Wits Centre for Journalism’s Radio Academy, in collaboration with the Fojo – IMS Media Reform Programme in Ethiopia, co-hosted Ethiopia’s first ever community radio management certificate course in Addis Ababa from 5 to 9 December.

“This was also the Academy’s first official certificate offering outside of South Africa, and we’re extremely excited at the prospect of continuing to expand our reach into the rest of Africa in the coming years,” said Jacob Ntshangase, Wits Radio Academy coordinator.

Sixteen community radio managers from various community radio stations across Ethiopia participated in part one of the course, with the second segment set to continue in February 2023. The course deals with the basic principles and theory of management, strategy and leadership; the radio industry globally and locally; as well as the fundamentals of radio station management and its relationship with good governance.

Head of the Wits Radio Academy Jacob Ntshangase during a training session.

It also forms part of continued efforts from Fojo and IMS to provide journalists in Ethiopia with the support needed to navigate ethnic divisions, self-censorship, the restrictive legal environment and lack of professionalism which still permeate the media industry following years of repressive rule. The new government has taken major steps towards media reform and is creating a larger space for freedom of expression.

Ntshangase explained that the course also aims to show station managers that radio need not be rigid and rehearsed. “Radio is not a classroom. It can be part of a university, but you shouldn’t just copy and paste what takes place in a class or lecture. Radio forms a big part of education but doesn’t necessarily have to be so rigid. It’s a fun medium that can be used to educate and entertain in unique ways, and we show station managers how to find that balance.”

Professor Franz Krüger in discussion during the radio management course.

He continued: “At the moment, nearly all of Ethiopia’s community radio programmes are pre-recorded. For me, that kills the spirit of radio. It should be live and interactive, and I feel like we made good progress showing course participants how to achieve that.” 

Ntshangase explained that it has always been his dream to make the Wits Radio Academy an African academy. “We have the capacity, knowledge and skills to expand on the continent, and I think there’s a need for us to do so. We’ve been in discussions with Fojo recently to conduct similar training programmes in countries like Burundi.”   

In the long run, the radio management course will strengthen media management’s capacity to produce sustainable quality journalism and improve gender representation, while also securing financial viability with the help of business models that fit the needs of community radio stations and their target groups.