BBC Swahili will launch a national televised debate show in Kiswahili, Kenya’s national language, Sunday 7 October.
Renowned BBC journalist, Joseph Warungu will present Sema Kenya, which means Kenya speaks. Warungu is former head of the BBC’s African news and current affairs department where he was responsible for flagship show Focus on Africa and oversaw a team of over 60 reporters across the continent.
The show will travel around the country bringing officials and well known public figures together with ordinary people to spark an open national conversation. It will run up to and through the general elections on 4 March 2013. The first programme will broadcast from Mombasa with security, land issues and drug abuse up for discussion.
“The audience drives the debate on Sema Kenya”, said David Okwembah, Managing Editor of the BBC East Africa Bureau.
“People will have their say on what should be discussed every step of the way, and given a chance to get answers to issues that truly matter to them”.
The programme will also raise awareness of the six ballots – rather than the usual three - taking place on the same day in March 2013. Kenyans will elect the President, members of parliament, senators, county governors, women representatives and county assembly members. It will also explore and discuss recent electoral and constitutional reforms.
Between broadcasts, the discussion will continue throughout the country on the internet, SMS and social media. 64% of Kenyans have access to a mobile phone, and are some of the highest users of Twitter on the continent.
Sema Kenya will work with local civil society organisations to give communities with low media access a voice in the debate.
At a pilot show in September that focused on women’s representation in government, student leader Edward Okumu, 22, said “Many other shows tend to value what the panel has to say over the audience. Sema Kenya is a good way to engage the audience as well.”
Amina Bakari, 61, agreed. “The show was very inclusive, especially considering how marginalised women are in Kenya.”
Sema Kenya will broadcast Sundays at 1pm on radio and 6pm on television, and will air on broadcasting partners KTN, BBC Swahili, and six radio stations, including three vernacular stations. The BBC made its first broadcast to Africa more than 80 years ago. The combined audience on radio and television makes the BBC the largest international broadcaster in Africa.
BBC Swahili is a multimedia broadcaster providing TV, radio and online content to Kiswahili-speaking audiences. BBC Swahili radio content is available on BBC FM stations and/or partner radio networks in Burundi, DR Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.