The West Africa Democracy Radio (WADR) is a trans-territorial, sub-regional radio station based in Dakar, Senegal. WADR was established in 2005 as a project of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) to among other things protect and defend the ideals of democratic and open societies by disseminating development information through a network of community radios in the West African sub-region.
The mission of WADR is the promotion and defence of the ideals of democracy, openness, mutual understanding and respect between individuals and between communities. This regional radio entity also seeks to promote peace and human security, transparency and the duty to report on governance, regional economic integration, as well as social and cultural development amongst and between the peoples of the West African region. Through its programs, the WADR seeks to provide a forum for diverse opinions to create understanding among people and between people and their governments.
WADR started by broadcasting to the Mano River Union countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia as a pilot and today it has expanded to the other countries of the region with a network of about 40 partner radios in ten West African countries and a chain of correspondents in fourteen countries in the region. WADR started by broadcasting in French and English on 94.9 FM in Dakar, via satellite on Astra 4A to sub-Saharan Africa, and streaming on www.wadr.org
Presently WADR employs staff comprising administration, support staff, producers /journalists, technicians and correspondents. The radio model is based on partnerships and co-productions. From its inception to date WADR has brought together a pool of professionals from the region to contribute to the democratic development process of West Africa through in-depth coverage of events and production of programmes on relevant issues in the region such as health; education, governance, democracy and human rights, culture and youth and gender issues. The radio has been working with regional and international organizations as well as to produce programmes to educate and increase awareness of its target population on issues that concerns their development.
In April 2017, WADR together with OSIWA and partners worked on a new strategy for the radio to cover 2018 – 2020 in which new vision and mission were identified. In order to meet this vision and mission, new goals were also identified.
WADR will be the communication resource for inclusive democracy and change in Africa.
WADR will excel in informed conversations on equitable societal transformations from the diverse perspectives of African peoples especially the underrepresented.
WADR is presently broadcasting in English and French on-air on 94.9 fm, online on www.wadr.org, through mobile applications – Google Play and iphone and through our radio networks in the different countries in the region. Portuguese will be integrated progressively, as partnerships are being built in Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde with journalists as well as correspondents and radio stations.
In addition to these three ECOWAS languages, WADR programmes are also translated into the local languages by community radios and re-broadcast thus meeting its goal of informing the grass-roots on the public policies that are implemented in their name as well as their rights and responsibilities as citizens of ECOWAS. At the same time, WADR gives communities a channel to bring their views to policy makers and to the leaders. In so doing, the radio participates to improving the democratic system in promoting inclusion and participation of the majority beyond social, cultural, religious, national and linguistic barriers.
Upon presentation of WADR and its work above, below is a brief summary of what could be described as WADR’s major success factors:
Network of Correspondents - WADR has been able to cover 12 countries in the region; in addition to Cameroun where correspondents work on sharing information with the radio on a daily basis. The strong network of correspondents has given WADR the opportunity to explore its niche by being among the first to inform the people in the West African region of events and issues as they unfold.
Network of partner radio stations - Furthermore, with the radios mandate and focus on West Africa, with a network of more than 60 partner radio stations in 10 countries in the region. ( notably Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea Conakry, The Gambia, Mali, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Niger, Senegal, Togo and Sierra Leone), WADR has a wide coverage of the region.
News and Programmes- The strength of its presence has ensured that whilst international media houses report on major incidents and immediately shift focus to other trending events around the world, WADR keeps its focus on West Africa and delves deeper into the issues concerning its targets, making it easier for people to follow important regional events. An example being that of The Gambia, in which reports from partner stations show that with the BBC diversifying its focus, people continuously call on our partner stations requesting for more of the WADR News. Reports from Liberia have also hailed the re-broadcasting of WADR News by a private radio station in the country’s capital Monrovia. Through Prime Fm, WADR is now a household name in the country.
The Gambia story – WADR’s special intervention for political change
In addition, the radio was recently saluted by the civil society of The Gambia for its contribution to the return of democracy in that country. The role played over the years prior to the elections in 2016 with a consistent focus on the country’s political and human rights situation contributed to the political change celebrated today in the country, making WADR a household name in the country.
Special election coverage -Coverage of elections in the sub- region has become our flagship and considered a major achievement as we have realised that it is during this period that the website and social media platforms of the radio are well visited by people. These coverages give our audience an opportunity to follow the processes through our live broadcasts. These live broadcasts affords our audiences especially those in the Diaspora to access information on the elections online as we bring voices of the electorate live to the people through on the ground interviews and reports from our correspondents and telephone interviews and productions from the headquarters in Dakar. Just gauging by the online boost and the feedback received, it could be stated that the radio’s covering of the elections in West Africa has been well followed and appreciated by listeners. From 2015 to 2020 WADR has consequently covered the presidential elections in Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Benin, Togo, Guinea Conakry, Niger, the Constitutional Referendum in Senegal, the Presidential elections in The Gambia, Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Coverage of International Justice Issues---Hisene Habre, Laurent Gbagbo, Charles Ble Goude - We have been able to provide extensive coverage of the trials of the former Chadian President Hissene Habre by the Extraordinary African Chambers in Dakar, Senegal, the former Ivorian leaders President Laurent Gbagbo and former Minister Charles Ble Goudé before the International Criminal Court and that of former First Lady Simone Gbagbo in Abidjan. In addition international justice issues have been of paramount interest and we continue to keep our audience informed of major developments in this end.
WADR‘s role during the Ebola crisis - One of the major achievements of the radio in recent times has been its coverage of the Ebola crisis. At a time when most of the African media where covering the epidemic through the international media by following the BBC and others, WADR sent in reporters to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea during the peak of the epidemic. The special reports with the voices of the people infected and affected touched many lives and up to this day the reports are usually sought by partners. In addition WADR was involved in the sensitization and mobilization efforts against Ebola from 2015 to 2016 through a special communications project with support and in partnership with OXFAM. This project enabled WADR to train journalists in the three affected countries on Ebola sensitive reporting as well as professional production techniques leading to the production and dissemination of programmes.
WADR’S COVID 19 Intervention:
With the emergence of COVID 19 from February 2020, WADR started featuring major issues surrounding COVID 19 in all it’s News editions in English and in French on a daily basis and through other programmes. A daily 30 minute production solely on the spread, prevention and control measures of COVID19 was produced and broadcast in English and French on a daily basis titled COVID 19 SPECIAL. These efforts were complemented by the support of OSIWA through the Senegal country office. This support contributed to curtailing the spread of COVID 19 in thirteen (13) countries in West Africa through the provision of quality and relevant programmes for a well-informed population.
The WADR management set up a team of producers and correspondents to produce over 20 spots and a weekly programme in English and in French titled Focus on COVID 19 / Focus Sur COVID 19 featured in our weekly health programmes Welbodi and Capital Santé.
The team produced and disseminated well researched radio programmes with the objective of dispelling rumours, fighting stigma and discrimination and enabling people to access information on prevention and control measures. The programmes produced in English and French were translated into local languages such as Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa in Nigeria, Mandinka in the Gambia, Twi, Kusaal, Dangme, Gonja and Dagaare in Ghana, Temne, Krio and Mende in Sierra Leone, Wollof and Fula/Pulaar in Senegal, Pulaar and Sousou in Guinea Conakry, Bambara in Mali, Bete and Yacouba in Ivory Coast, Houssa and Germa in Niger, Dioula in Burkina Faso, Ana, Moba, Ewe, Ouatchi in Togo and Fon in Benin.
Furthermore, our market shares and branding; our accessibility to our audiences and the quality of our information that brings out the voices of Africa’s people and our access to donor funding from agencies such as (Ford Foundation, UNFPA, OXFAM, Plan International, UNESCO, UNDG, UNWOMEN, German Federal Foreign office etc) and our potential to work with others through their programmes and sponsored advertisements, provide another example of a success factor.
Our performance indicators are many and they include: our effective use of information technology; our ability to broadcast to a diverse but captive audience in two major languages; the production of quality and relevant programmes; our accessibility to audiences in both West Africa and the diaspora; our strong network of about 60 partner radio stations; thousands of followers on social media and users that download our material from platforms such as soundcloud and audiomack.
WADR has thus over the years successfully developed its broadcasting capacities; built ties with other West African organizations, community radio stations and networks and international NGOs and has been broadcasting regularly, 24 hours a day, covering the region, especially on such issues as democracy and human rights.