Author: Kwizera Charugamba, January 13 2015 - Last summer, as we started the mammoth task of building a national youth radio show in Tanzania from scratch, a few of us (myself included) set off on a fact-finding mission to BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 1Xtra’s London [United Kingdom] studios.

We wanted to find out "what works" at one of the UK's most popular youth radio stations and how we could adopt - and adapt - some of their best ideas.

Household-name presenters and award-winning producers were more than willing to share tips on anything from production planning and finding the right guests, to the best way to engage listeners both on - and off-air.

We're now putting this advice into practice in making Niambie, which means "tell me" in Kiswahili. It's a national radio show that gives young people in Tanzania the information they need to take part in the local and national decision-making processes that affect their lives.

What's more, it's a really good listen.

Make it fun

During our London visit Trevor Nelson, a veteran BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 1Xtra presenter, stressed the need for shows to be entertaining. "Make it a fun experience for the listener," he said. He told us how he had invited Eminem to contribute to a slot on his show, encouraging younger people to vote in the run-up to the UK general election.

We've since used similar tactics by inviting Tanzanian celebrities such as the reality TV star Idris Sultan and the actress Elizabeth Michael to help reach wider audiences and bring to life important topics such as the upcoming 2015 elections in Tanzania.

Another highlight of the London visit was meeting Andy Taylor, a BBC Radio 1 producer, who shared a story he was working on about youth unemployment in Britain. Tanzania faces this issue too, and we later used a similar approach to Andy's to produce our own report. Pleasingly, we were able to return the favour by sharing insights from Niambie's extensive audience research showing how listener reach and engagement can be improved through "edutainment" techniques such as using popular music and social media to get across important information.

Newsbeat's reporter Jim Taylor left us with a lasting message - don’t constantly reinvent the wheel. "If the format works" he said, "use it again!" This is exactly what our trip was for, to evolve best practice from BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 1Xtra into a workable format for youth audiences in Tanzania. And work it did!

Our audience figures and social media following are soaring with each weekly episode, helping us encourage even more young people to engage in the decisions which will shape both their lives and their country's future.


Click here to access this BBC Media Action blog and here to listen to Niambie (if you speak Swahili) on Soundcloud.

Image credit: BBC Media Action

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