The Sahel's youth is feeling neglected...Yet young people are in the majority in this region of Africa: the under 30s represent 65% of the population.
There you have the starting point for a major project, officially launched by Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and Agence Française de Coopération Médias (CFI) on Thursday 18 April, aimed at counteracting the marginalisation of youth in this region of Africa. The code name is MediaSahel.
The 4-year MediaSahel project, to be implemented in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, has a budget of €8.3 million, including funding from the Minka “Peace and Resilience” fund. The project aims to help young people living in crisis areas stay better informed and play a more active role in these countries' public debate.
Challenging Fake News
The originality of this project is that it seeks to achieve its goals by building the capacities of local media. Some twenty media outlets have been selected in each country—primarily community radios. There are three main objectives: to enable the media to produce reliable, cool-headed information, to focus on the concerns of young people, and to allow young people to express their opinions on these issues.
Many training programmes will be offered for radio and web reporters in these countries. The programmes will focus on hosting shows featuring young people, creating new online formats and fact-checking programmes to limit the spread of fake news. This is no small challenge in a region beset with community conflicts and terrorism.
The MediaSahel project will also finance the production of content created for and by young people from the Sahel, in French and also in dozens of local languages, including Mandingo, Mossi, Fula, Songhai and Tamasheq. AFD and CFI will receive backing in this area from recognized organizations and media such as Radio France International (RFI), Fondation Hirondelle, the Association of Private Media in Burkina Faso and the Senegalese NGO, RAES.
Promoting gender equality
Since January, RFI has been broadcasting a new programme in French dedicated to African youth: “So, What Do You Think?” Content in Fula will be added to the programme starting in April, a first for RFI. The programme has already found its audience! The radio station received over 1,100 calls from listeners on the first day the programme was broadcast in Fula, proof that this meets a strong desire for content in this language.
The project will also promote gender equality in the selection of those who will benefit from the project—particularly young women journalists and listeners— and by raising awareness among reporters on gender-related issues, among others. The goal is to increase the presence of women in the media, both on the air and in editorial teams.
There are positive changes on the horizon in the Sahel, and women and young people will be leading the way, so there is reason to hope they will soon rise above their discouragement.