Community Multimedia Centres in Africa

Community Radio in Sayara in Senegal's southeastern corner. © UNESCO/Anne Müller

Community Multimedia Centres (CMCs) are simply radio stations plus a telecentre, all in one.

The CMCs represent a direct gateway between radio and internet, making it a platform that combines a community radio and a community telecentre, resource center or cyber space.

Today over 70 centres exist in Mali, Mozambique, Senegal.

The beautiful thing about the CMCs is that they are owned and run by the community. Politics and commercials are are not allowed.

UNESCO is training volunteers to create and disseminate information tailored to the needs of each community.

UNESCO firmly believes that by putting communities at the center of the process, to both create and receive the information, a sense of ownership would be developed to further enhance the development of local content for creativity, dialogue, dynamism and confidence. Volunteers are trained as journalists and radio producers and they produce radio for their follow citizens.

In some place this is the only information channel that exists. Sometime the townhall gives a space to house the radio, sometimemit is given by a local private company. 

How does it work?

UNESCO is providing the initial equipment including broadcast equipment with transmitter 100 or 250W, 4 – 5 computers with internet access, a printer, a digital camera, photocopy machine and fax machine as well as a couple of telephones. That's all.

It is then up to the CMCs to find ways to sustain the radios/centers. The cyber cafees, when they work, generate some income. Other souces of income include announcements in the radio, organisations of community events, running of community restaurants and much more.

The community radio also work with NGOs and other development partners to convey messages on for example nurition, HIV and AIDs, environmental issues, gender-based violence, local governance cultural and artistic heritage and much more. 

How it started

The idea of establishing the CMCs came up in 2003, in Geneva, when the heads of state of Senegal, Mali and Mozambique agreed with the Director General of UNESCO to fight against the digital divide through the establishment of CMCs. Swizerland has been one of the main donor countries in setting up the centres.

The main objective of the CMCs is to provide access for poor and marginalized communities to the vast information resources available through information and communication technologies. Specifically the project aims among other things to accelerate:

  • Reduction of the digital divide
  • Access and use of ICTs by communities
  • Poverty reduction
  • Strengthening the capacity of people

From October 2004 to 2006 about 21 CMCs were established in Mali, Mozambique and Senegal and over 40 more at the end of 2006. From 2008 to date about about 70 CMCs were established within national ICT frameworks in each country. In Senegal alone, some 30 CMCs are in place.

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