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China Daily Website

African airwaves

Updated: 2013-06-07 11:12
By Li Aoxue ( China Daily)

African airwaves

Fadhili Mpunji tells his Swahili audience about what Chinese people think and how they live. Wei Xiaohao / China Daily

A Tanzanian radio presenter brings countries together through his Swahili show about China

As a student of international relations Fadhili Mpunji dreamed of becoming a diplomat. His wish was to connect the culture of his homeland, Tanzania, others and to see new places. Now, as presenter for China Radio International, the 37-year-old believes he has in a way achieved this ambition by connecting a Swahili speaking audience in Africa with China through his radio show.

Mpunji, who comes from Mbeya, previously worked for 4 years as a reporter for a government-run radio station in Tanzania. He believes the same audience that listened to him back then is now interested in understanding everything about China, from sport to politics.

"As China develops really fast nowadays, people around the world are keen on knowing more about China," he says.

"They would like to know why China develops so fast in its economy and what China is going to do for the world."

Mpunji recently visited Xinjiang, an underdeveloped autonomous region in the far west of China. Areas like this are of particular interest to African listeners, he believes, because they offer an opportunity to hear about how China is developing now and potential lessons for Africa.

His show also offers African listeners an opportunity to understand China, he believes.

"Different from China and other developed countries, people in Africa get outside information still through the traditional ways such as TV and radio. These two media therefore still play an important role in Africa."

Mpunji anchors a show called My Adventures in China in which he talks about his experiences of the country, answers questions and talks about how China is developing.

"One of the questions I have heard most is on the topic of family planning in China, as the Swahili audience considers it is abnormal to have one child per family," he says.

"But I tell them nowadays as more Chinese young couples are becoming career-driven, they don't have time and energy to bring up children, and some of them are even becoming dinks (double income no kids)."

Mpunji has been a radio presenter for 14 years, 10 of them in China, and he now considers the country his second home.

He finds working for China Radio International more fulfilling than his previous job in Tanzania.

"The radio station in Tanzania is more commercialized, but in China I can cover the subjects I'm interested in, and radio programs made in China are more listener oriented."

Mpunji came to China in 2003 and fell in love with the country instantly.

"China is a tremendous place as it has many places to visit. And also Chinese people are very warm and friendly, especially my colleagues who have given me a lot of help and support at my work place."

He has also had opportunities to interview ambassadors and other officials from around the world that he would not have had in his old job, he says.

"I like communicating with people and it is such a terrific thing that I get the opportunity to ask questions to these great people," he says.

Mpunji initially wanted to work as a diplomat, but switched to radio after a conversation with his former employer in Tanzania.

"My boss was quite a smart lady and she analyzed the difference between working as a diplomat and as a reporter," he says.

"She said working as a diplomat is dealing with country-to-country relations, while working as a reporter can reach a broader audience and even worldwide.

"I'm glad that now by working as a radio reporter in China, I am kind of like a diplomat as I am learning Chinese culture and introducing it to a Swahili audience worldwide."

That audience is potentially huge, with Swahili the second most widely spoken native language in Africa after Hausa, Mpunji says. And speakers extend beyond Africa, with significant Swahili speaking communities in the Middle East, Europe and the US, he adds.

"Swahili is a very important language in Africa and if a person wants to integrate into society, speaking English or French is not enough," Mpunji says.

In China too, there is a growing group of Chinese Swahili speakers, he says.

"Currently there are only four universities in China that provide Swahili courses and some universities like Peking University have set up Swahili as a selective course for postgraduate students who are doing African studies."

Mpunji is frequently invited to speak with students studying Swahili and teaches them using poems from his homeland.

"Swahili is a mixed language of many, as its vocabulary contains words from Arabic, German, English, Portuguese and Chinese," he says.

"Language is strongly connected with culture. By teaching students to understand the language of Swahili, I hope I can help them understand African culture more."

Mpunji plans to return home some day, but he has no regrets about going to China.

"One of the harvests for me is that I have learned Chinese culture thoroughly. One cannot learn culture from reading a book, neither can one learn it from school.

"Most of all, I am telling my Swahili audience about what Chinese people think and how they should behave while meeting a Chinese so as to reduce misunderstandings between people of the two countries."


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