Tanzanian Community Radio Stations Chart Path to Financial Sustainability

“Many of us running the stations had always assumed that once a radio station is set up and goes on air, it will automatically pull advertisers its way. I used to blame advertisers for ‘ignoring’ us, but now I know better and will work better,” said Mussa Mgosi Marketing Manager of the Mwanza-based Lake FM, after attending the Internews led Business Media Forum in Dar es Salaam. 

As part of its work with community radio stations in Tanzania, Internews asked stations to fill out a business plan template. Many struggled to fill in relevant information, and about a third could not accomplish the assignment at all. Following this first attempt, managers and advertisers from 20 radio stations were invited to work together on a business plan during a three-day Forum in August, organized by Internews.

“I came here not knowing how to draw up a business plan. Now I am proud that we have one and we know how to use it to guide our marketing teams,” said Abdillah Hassan, marketing manager of HITS FM in Zanzibar.

Together, the radio teams drafted a list of 120 potential advertisers. “It is funny how we missed these obvious opportunities. I aim to approach at least 10 potential advertisers a month,” says Jacob Mwenga working with Ice FM in Njombe.

People sit talking in a classroom

The station managers and marketing teams also learned pitching techniques directly from the advertisers who addressed the Forum, JumiaFood and Tatu Mzuka.  Salma Alley, Zanzibar’s Chuchu FM station manager is very hopeful: “We will visit all the companies and persuade them to advertise using our newly gained pitching skills.”

The Internews team also emphasized the importance of quality content in generating revenue. Ali Abbas has been struggling for the last few years to get Mkoani FM in Pemba off the ground, though it is a major source of information for the people living in the area. He has been unable to pay staff salaries and fund operations. “This is the first time that I am being taken through a training programme that links content and marketing. Armed with the business plan, I will get my team busy.”

Justice Rutenge, Internews Business Media advisor notes that ‘’More than half of the radios came into the workshop with 10 or less paying clients in the last year. They left with over 100 identified leads, knowledge on how to pitch to potential clients and how to price their products.” Rutenge will mentor the partner radio stations helping them translate the newly acquired knowledge and the business plan into revenue.

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Internews’ project in Tanzania, Boresha Habari, is funded by USAID, and implemented in partnership with FHI 360. It seeks to support an open, inclusive environment in which media and civil society provide accurate and impartial information that promotes participation, inclusion, and accountability. A core focus of this activity is the engagement and empowerment of women and youth in order to elevate their voices, influence, and issues in the public sphere as both producers and consumers of information. 

(Banner photo: Deborah is a broadcaster at a radio station in Tanzania. Credit m0gg/CC)