Burundi is a country of approximately 8.9 million inhabitants among which 55% are youth. The majority of the population (about 90%) lives in rural areas. The primary school enrolment rate is 96.1% and the literacy rate for youth is about 80%.
Though the civil war ended in 2005, the country is still engaged in the process of reconciliation and peace reconstruction. In 2014, Burundi occupied the 180th position (out of 187 countries) on the Human Development Index. According to the results of the 2010 Demographic and Health Survey, the great majority of the population (67%) lives under the national poverty line. Although resolving the unemployment issues and increasing household income are among the six main priorities identified in a governmental strategy entitled “Vision Burundi 2025”, unemployment is still widespread among young boys and girls.
ICTs in the country
According to the second Strategic Framework for Growth and fight against Poverty (CLSP 2) and the national ICT policy (adopted in 2007), the development and integration of ICTs in Burundi has been hindered by the high cost of services, the low purchasing power of households, the reliance on costly satellite technologies, the limited geographical coverage of mobiles, the lack of national expertise, the inadequacy of the legal framework, among other factors. The six strategic objectives (1-Build human resources capacity; 2-Improve the legal and regulatory environment; 3-Promote and develop basic infrastructure; 4-Promote good governance; 5-Promote and favor private investment and 6-Promote the development of content and applications) retained by the government aim at addressing most of those challenges.
Since 2013, the optic fiber has been deployed in the country and is now operational in 9 of the 11 provinces of the country. Regarding mobile services, with a penetration rate of 21.9%, they reach about 2.53 million of users. The country is home of seven mobile operators with infrastructures covering only 11.5% of the territory. Most of the internet users (8% of the population) depend on mobile phone or cyber-cafés to access Internet.
Local radio in the country
According to working papers of the National Conference on Communication (Etats Généraux de la Communication), there are 19 radio stations (5 community radio) in Burundi. The stations are concentrated in Bujumbura, with few established in the rest of the provinces.
In order to operate, the law provides that each private and not-for-profit radio station pays US$1000 application fee, US$500 for equipment clearance and US$500 annually for license fee. The sustainability of local radios is impacted by the prevailing socio-economic environment in which the majority of the population lives below the national poverty line and the advertising market is very limited.
Importance of support to local radio
Local radio stations are highly involved in the peace reconstruction process and very active in civic education as well as providing information on issues of local community concerns.
From human resources perspective, local radios cannot afford hiring qualified personnel. They tend to rely on unpaid staff or volunteers to operate. Their incomes are generally not sufficient to cover the main charges. Most of the local radios depend on financial or equipment support from NGOs or IGOs. According to working papers of the National Conference on Communication, media mangers lack of appropriate management and planning skills is part of the major challenges faced by local radios.
Nevertheless, due to the affordability of radio receivers and the irregularity of power supply in rural areas, the population depends mainly on local radio to satisfy most of their information needs. In 2013, a study of media audience estimated that at least 82% of households own a radio receiver with 57% of listeners using batteries powered receivers. Local radios produce content in different languages and on a wide variety of subjects such as peace and reconciliation, return of refugees, human rights, good governance, agriculture, health, etc. There is then a need to support local radio in Burundi.