Malawians living in some parts of Nkhata-Bay rural say they lack access to local radio stations as there have been no radio signal since they were born.
The development has left people in the dark as far as accessing information is concerned.
Community members in Thotho, Mangw’ina, Musinjiyiwi, Chisangawe, Masasa, Chitundu, and Sanji areas under Sub T/A Khoza in Nkhata-Bay district have expressed concerns over lack of radio reception in their areas, saying there is no signal for them to listen to local radios.
The reporter of this story visited the places and established that many people are complaining that they are not able to listen to news because there is no radio signal in the areas.
Mr. Yotamu Mhone, who lives at Thotho Chisangawe, told us that he has lived in the area for 60 years, but he has never listened to any Malawian radio station but rather Tanzania radio stations.
“I’am 60 now, but all these years have never ever catshed even one radio station here, we only subscribe to a Tanzanian public broadcaster-TBC , We ask the government through the communications regulatory body MACRA to provide signals for both radio station and Mobile networks so thst we start listening to local radios,” said Mhone.
Concurring with Mhone, some teachers and the health workers who live in these areas emphasized that finding information is difficult considering that the areas have difficulties with access to mobile networks, and for them to send reports, they have to board boats and go long distance on the lake to find network.
“You know that today we are living in a global world and access to information is very paramount. Some of us, we have worked here for more than 7 others 10 years, but we are living like we are in the third world. It’s high time government should also open opportunities for us we need to be listening to radio stations, we also need to be upgrading, through studying online. We listen to radio stations when we go to Nkhata-Bay month ends for salaries,” he said.
Lucy Manda and James Mhone, both students at Thotho CDSS, expressed their concerns, saying they are failing to utilize the opportunities of using technology due to network challenges.
“In towns, our friends are able to use computers, learn through radio, and have access to different education materials. We have seen MACRA open different ICT centers, and we would be glad if the government, through MACRA, could think of giving us one here,” said Lucy and James.
Sub T/A Khoza lamented that it is true that his people in his area have been denied the right to access information.
“It is my request to the government that we here at Thotho and other surrounding areas have the opportunity to listen to Malawian Radio stations and mobile network, since from the colonial rule until now, we have been listening to TBC of Tanzania,” said Chief Khoza.
But what does the government say about the challenge.
Moses Kunkuyu is the responsible minister of Information and digitalization and he start by acknowledging the challenges.
“As government MACRA is indeed aware that some people in some areas of Nkhata-Bay listen to Tanzania radios. This is the case because of the topography as the spill over signals travel through the lake to Malawi,” he said.
The Minister also hinted that MACRA has licenced a lot of radio stations in the North such as Voice of Livingstonia, Tuntufye Radio, Tigabane Radio, Wazilinda which cover Nkhata-Bay.
He also said there is a radio station called Chirundu at Nkhata-Bay Boma which covers Nkhata-Bay central and surrounding areas.
Answering to the question why is MACRA not embarking on deliberate measures to put network towers in those areas so that radio reception should be eased, Kunkuyu said government having noted the gaps in radio coverage and mobile network in some parts of the country like Nkhata Bay, MACRA has embarked on a Universal Service Fund Project to identify the areas with gaps.
“Currently the areas have been verified by the mobile network providers and there is a plan to install 26 towers across Malawi to cover these gaps and Nkhata-Bay will be one of the beneficiaries of this project,” he said.
According to the minister MACRA has finished the refrarming exercise which has released a lot of frequencies and people from Nkhata-Bay can apply for broadcasting stations to be established within the district.
I hope that people are aware that there was a moratorium not to licence more broadcasters as MACRA was conducting the refarming exercise. Now that the refarming exercise is over, licensing of broadcasters has resumed and MACRA is willing to receive licence applications from Nkhata-Bay.
Thotho, Mangw’ina, Msinjiyiwi, Chisangawe, Masasa, Chitundu and Sanji has a population of 7201.