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In the Wireless Corner

Huye: in the wireless corner

We’re heading down to Huye for the first real day’s research in Rwanda, and Ali our driver-cum-hustler pulls over and we pile out to catch a small town/village saturday market. It’s beautiful, spread out over an extended paddock that curves like an amphitheater – with all the colour and bustle of a a space that supports trade and social interaction. Standing in the pit gives you a stage-view of the different sections of the market: the furniture makers (mostly beds); bicycles from China; hair dressers for women (cutting, oiling, dying, extensions) with the client perched on a chair for all to see; barbers with electric razors powered by car battery; foodstuffs; household goods; traditional remedy sellers next to the tobacco leaf sellers.

The most bustling section of the market is the mobile phone sellers – ringed by repair stalls 100 or so men standing in a dense space in twos threes or fours discussing the merits and cost of different phones – technological prowess on display. And just to the right of the mobile phone market was what came before the wireless sellers – small radios to boxes that boom, the crowd thinning akin to a balding pate. It’s easy to underestimate the power of radio in rural populations – pretty much every adult knows how to get into aural proximity of the popular shows, and increasingly this is done through their FM enabled mobile phone.

Where mobile is today, there’ll be something else tomorrow.

Related: rural radio station in South Sudan, and radio/boombox as status object in Nepal.