Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now


A Look Into Radio and Its Empowering Effects in Africa

Rachel Njiru is using radio to shift the narrative of young people

Radio World’s “Guest Commentaries” section provides a platform for industry thought leaders and other readers to share their perspective on radio news, technological trends and more. If you’d like to contribute a commentary, or reply to an already published piece, send a submission to [email protected].

The author is an award-winning youth advocate. He is the co-founder of a number of community initiatives including the Youth Congress, a premier youth-led organization in Kenya.

Rachel Njeru, popularly known as “Mwalimu Rachel,” is on a mission to show the world the power of radio. Her path to becoming a trendsetter and trailblazing radio presenter in Africa is inspiring, and so is her influence as radio host. Born in Kenya, Njeru is currently a presenter at NRG Radio and the founder of MRX Media Limited, which inspires and empowers young people.

Njeru is both a talented presenter and a dominant influence on social media. Her huge following across Africa is changing things through the power of radio. I spoke with her on behalf of Radio World to learn more about her career, her aspirations and how she is working to expand radio’s reach.

Raphael Obonyo: Can you tell us about yourself?

Rachel Njeru: I’m a mom of one, living in Nairobi, Kenya. [I’m] the third-born in a family of five, a graduate from the University of Nairobi and an all-round lover of life.

Obonyo: How did you get into radio, and how has the journey been so far?

Njeru: While in second year at the university, studying sociology and language and communication, a friend informed me of auditions by Homeboyz Radio, and so I went. I wasn’t the first pick though. Six months later, I got the invitation to be trained and later on made it to the final three and then employed.

Ten years later I was approached by NRG Radio to train and lead the presenters as we started the new station. It has been six years and I love it. NRG is an urban contemporary hit radio station broadcasting in Kenya’s urban cities, and a multi-platform entertainment experience that embraces digital technology.

Obonyo: Tell us about your current job/business. What are some of your career highlights and challenges you experience?

Njeru: Well radio has always been fun for me. Connecting with my audience all over Africa and beyond is always exciting and a blessing. Every day I learn something new. Things can get hectic when machines let you down, but we always have the tech team ready to sort things out.

As a result of working with the youth over a span of a decade, I started my own company called MRX Media Limited that empowers the youth through mentorship, financial literacy and talent development. 

Through MRX Media, I’ve been fortunate to be invited to high schools as well as colleges all over Kenya to mentor students. The Mwalimu Rachel brand has grown beyond boarders. Recently, I received invitation from the Dubai Tourism Board to be part of the Dubai Expo and influence more Africans to travel to Dubai.

Obonyo: What do you think needs to happen to get more young women interested in radio as a career?

Njeru: I believe we need to highlight more success stories of radio personalities to inspire more young people to be on the radio. Furthermore, we should let people, especially young ones, understand the power [that] the microphone holds — let them understand how they can be vessels of peace and love and touch [the] lives of millions who listen to them and feel they are their best friend. They can help and give people hope as they entertain them.

Obonyo: How have you been able to use radio to shift the narratives of the African people?

Njeru: I remember a time Gengetone (a Gen Z genre of music) was heavily condemned by many Kenyans. Granted the music was heavy on the explicit side (sex and marijuana) but I dug deep to listen to these young people who were telling their story the only way they knew how and using real life scenarios.

I was able to speak to these artists on radio and gave them advice to use a “cleaner way” to address their issues, but at the same time talking to my audience to help them understand where the artists were coming from. Gen Z’s just need to be heard and understood. 

[Related: “How One Radio Presenter Is Speaking Out About Mental Health in Africa“]

Obonyo: How do you unwind after a long day at work?

Njeru: I love to hang around my friends who now get to entertain me with their stories for a change as I also gather topics to discuss on radio the following day. Everything is content. I also love going to the gym and release stress while keeping fit. 

Obonyo: What is your message to young Africans in general? What would you tell those aspiring to pursue a career in radio?

Njeru: That radio is 20 percent what you learn in school, 30 percent talent (character) and 50 percent your effort in terms of research, improving day by day and consistency.

Obonyo: There have been a lot of changes in the media landscape in recent times. Where do you think radio is headed?

Njeru: The new age is definitely podcasting, and I think there is a way the two can move in tandem; where podcast shows are given space within radio programming like syndicated shows. This way content creators become suppliers for shows while staying independent.

Obonyo: Do you see traditional radio broadcasting by frequency becoming obsolete?

Njeru: Not in the near future as, by just looking at the African continent, a lot of technological advancement will have to be made in terms of structures and software that support the new age media like podcasts. The rural areas still don’t have access to internet and infrastructure that support online radio.

Obonyo: Radio is still the universal medium that leaves no one behind. In the age of new communication technologies and social media, what do you think needs to be done to expand radio’s reach in Africa?

Njeru: We need to start training our youth in rural areas to become radio presenters, have more community radios and empower people and communities with the necessary machines and technology. I believe this will go a long way.

Obonyo: Do you have a final message?

Njeru: I’d like to encourage anyone reading this, people with passion to be radio hosts, to do so in their spaces. Start by becoming a good story teller because really that’s what we do as radio presenters. From there, see how you can tell those stories online and be discovered.

[Read More Guest Commentaries Here]