EarlyLife Online Radio: A Pan-African platform for the youth

Also in the new year promising business ideas are coming in via the VC4Africa website. Let’s meet Ugandan entrepreneur Grace Atuhaire who is currently setting up an online radio station for African youth. “Young people have got a big role to play in this world and the future depends on us!”

Why did you start EarlyLife Online Radio?

“As a young person with a passion for journalism I struggled to get a platform to have my writings published. I would like to provide a free access platform to all young people interested in journalism! That’s why I started EarlyLife Online Radio.

I got the idea in 2010 and in March 2011 I pitched my idea to the organization Twaweza Uganda. They took me as their intern for three months while I piloted the project. Our mission is to develop responsibility within the youth and empower them to act as citizen journalists within their own communities to be the agents of positive change.”

Can you tell us a bit more about yourself?

“I am a writer based in Uganda. I hold a Bachelors of Arts in Social Sciences majoring in Political Science from Kyambogo University. I have written for both online and print magazines, like a travel in-flight magazine called ‘Asante Magazine’, ‘Witness Magazine’ and ‘Monitor,’ amongst others. I have a passion for investigative journalism.”

What are the biggest issues that come up while talking to your listeners during your shows?

“Our radio-station will focus on developmental issues and our focus ranges from health, education, technology, society to today’s social issues of our listeners! We do have both a Twitter and Facebook account via which listeners will be able to contact us and get a one on one with the presenters in the show. Also, we are developing Question and Answer feature on our website.

Right now we are preparing to start broadcasting in February 2012. We plan to stream 13 hours ‘live’ per day and the station will be ‘on air’ 24/7! Since we are still in our initial stages, young people who have become part of our family are excited about this new venture and are glued to see it grow together with them. A lot of ideas are coming to us and I am very happy that we have got such a great response!

The majority of young people I am working with are from Uganda and Kenya. Though, we also have others from DR Congo, Zambia, Cameroon, Nigeria, Togo, Rwanda, South Africa, Botswana and Ghana. Our listener-ship will be global as it will be open to anyone who is online! Young people have got a big role to play in this world and the future depends on us!”

The station is only available online?

“Yes, when we launch in February that will be indeed the case. One of the challenges we are facing is not being able to reach the rural young audience in a short run. But our plan is to acquire local frequencies in the different African countries in order to bridge that gap. So far, we plan to reach out to them through partnering with organizations that have rural ICT resource centres. In those centres young people can use computers to access our radio station.”

Is the mobile internet in Uganda fast and stable enough to stream audio through mobile phones?

“Yes, phones with Windows 7 and the iPhone can access internet radio. Currently I am in touch with the ICT-department of Makerere University in order to explore the options of an application for the popular Android-based Huawei phone, internet enabled Nokia’s and other phones so they can access the radio station.”

You want to empower African youth to act as citizen journalists. How are you doing this and why?

“So far, we have conducted two workshops at our premises at the Pan African Movement in Kampala, equipping them of basic journalism skills for radio. Our platform not only harbors the radio-station but also has a blog where we feature news, audio and video-podcasts submitted by our young contributors. That way they are practicing journalism and being heard and read!

I do this because I want to see change happen in Africa! And that change can happen if young people, who are tomorrow’s future, get active in today’s activities both on a national and community level.”

How will EarlyLife Online Radio generate income?

“Basically we want to make money the way other radio stations are doing that: by selling airtime space during and in between our radio-shows. Also we will sell advertising space on our website. We have identified three stages; first we need to set up the studio equipment and radio programming. Then we need to create a network of young volunteering correspondents all over Africa and the world. When we have established this we need to market our platforms.”

What are you looking for to expand your operations?

“We are setting up our studios in Uganda and we need support to purchase some of the studio equipment as well as the purchasing a one year internet bandwidth. We do need a sponsor!”

How can VC4Africa members contact you?

“I can be contacted via my VC4Africa profile, by visiting our website or contact me via graceseb [at] gmail.com. You can also call me on +256 (0)775576702.”