Home African communication system i AFRICAN COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS AND MASS COMMUNICATION COMPARED

AFRICAN COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS AND MASS COMMUNICATION COMPARED

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1.0 INTRODUCTION

Having examined the reasons for studying African Communication systems, it is crucial to look at the characteristics, similarities and differences between indigenous and exogenous communication. This unit focuses on the characteristics of African communication systems; and the inter-relationship between indigenous and exogenous communication.

2.0 OBJECTIVES

At the end of this unit, students should be able to:

  1. outline the characteristics of African communication systems 
  2. discuss problems of indigenous communication 
  3. discuss the alternatives to African communication systems 
  4. outline the differences between indigenous and exogenous communication 
  5. outline the similarities between indigenous and exogenous communication. 

3.1 Characteristics of African Communication Systems

Below are some of the characteristics of African communication systems:

3.1.1Value

Values in communication deal with effectiveness of communication. Effectiveness means that messages are received by intended audience, interpreted as conceived by the sender; message is remembered over a reasonably extended period of time, and message is used appropriately.

African communication systems have value, and it is an important aspect of our culture. It is the agency by which culture is preserved, handed down, responds to new situations and adapts. The influx and explosion of exogenous media, endangers the survival of and may even lead to the erosion of traditional African communication, which might threaten cultural transmission and the survival of indigenous technical knowledge (ITK).

3.1.2 Reach

African media are ubiquitous because they reach many rural people who are not reached by even the most widespread exogenous channels. So, it should always be realised in designing communication strategy and in choosing channels of communication that television, newspapers and magazines are largely confined to the urban areas in the developing countries. African communication systems are useful in conveying messages to people out of the reach of exogenous channels.

3.1.3 Channel Credibility

Messages transmitted through the exogenous (i.e. externally controlled) mass media are more often than not, greeted with hostility or scepticism. Since traditional channels are familiar to the target and controlled locally, they are quite credible.

3.1.4 Channels of Change

Researches into the diffusion of innovations have shown the importance of informal and inter-personal contacts in persuading people to adopt, or reject innovations (Opubor, 1975). Opubor argued that mass media are strong in creating awareness but weak in persuading people to adopt change. So, such contacts are more commonly made through the traditional channels. Hence, traditional channels of communication are important conduits of change. Therefore, it is necessary to integrate indigenous and exogenous communication systems to enhance outcomes in development. Although some development intervention programmes depend on information diffusion processes to take innovations and development messages to their target audiences, many have made explicit use of traditional channels to reach their intended beneficiaries of innovations.

3.1.5 Useful for the Collections and Dissemination of  Development Information

Development programmes can utilise traditional communication channels for the collection and dissemination of development information. Data on the local situation and response to outside initiatives can be gathered by attending village or social groups meetings and interviewing local people. At some time, participants in a communication system act as a recipient-disseminator. So, recipient-disseminators who are linked to outside societies are important conduits for lateral exchange of both indigenous and exogenous innovations. This means that there is an interface between knowledge and communication types (Chambers, 1997).

3.1.6 Promotes Participatory Development and Sustainability of Programmes: 

Contemporary development experts such as (Chambers, 1997; Cornwall and Welbourn, 2000) argue that exogenous communication transfers knowledge, while indigenous communication promotes indigenous based development. To diffuse innovation, exogenous media need to co-opt traditional media, because traditional media enhance cultural continuity and hence sustainable change. They further argued that traditional channels of communication give the local people the opportunity to participate in development programmes. The local people should be involved in the choice of channel, messages development, design and dissemination; and they should communicate with themselves, decision makers and development experts in reaching a decision on their development programmes. This they believe would enhance the retention and control of the indigenous programmes, which will enhance sustainability. These might account for why Chambers (1997) and Cornwall and Welbourn (2000) argued that those outside the indigenous areas are not in a position to package development programmes for the indigenous areas without first hand information and experience about the indigenous people.

These support the school of thought that is promoting a bottom-up approach to development. Indigenous communication offers opportunity for participation and fosters a sense of belonging required for sustainable development. Ignoring traditional communication could result in inappropriate development. So, development programmes can use indigenous communication, which encourages people oriented development and hence effectiveness and efficiency in outcome.

3.2 Problems of Indigenous Communication

Indigenous communication has some shortcomings. It has a problem of defining and explaining issues and illustration in modern language (lack appropriate terminologies). Again indigenous communication is an extension and externalisation of the individual knowledge system. So, the relevance of indigenous communication depends on the setting/area of occupation. There are the core and peripheral people who make up the indigenous people. Essentially, indigenous communication systems thrives most where they employ such indigenous forms of communication as the town announcer. Despites these shortcomings, indigenous communication would continue to be relevant for as long as there are traditional societies or settings.

3.3 What Are the Alternatives to African Communication Systems?

What are the alternatives to indigenous African communication systems? They are the exogenous, which are foreign to Africans. Exogenous media have limited range in Africa. They are urban centric, manipulative, lack immediate feedback and are affected by audience literacy level. They are also more likely to be affected by noise, which causes distortion and affects the range of communication. These further justify the need to study African communication systems.
4.0 CONCLUSION
The characteristics of African communication systems should be weighed alongside the exogenous media such as television, radio and newspapers. Most exogenous communication media have with time lost credibility to some extent. Any communication system with questionable credibility is not valuable. The source of the values in indigenous communication can easily be traced in its being mainly interpersonal and this is why through it, culture has been preserved overtime.

This unit also examined the differences and similarities between African communication systems and mass communication. It was stated amongst others that indigenous communication systems allows participation which is the source of its credibility. The indigenous system allows for immediate feedback making for total communication. Immediate feedback is important because it is an evaluative component of the communication system; and communication is cyclic because of its transactional nature requiring constant feedback.

In this unit, we have examined the characteristics of African communication systems. It was explained that the characteristics of indigenous communication are values, credibility, simplicity, clarity, consistency, continuity and competency on the side of the source and receiver which enhance completeness.

We also compared African communication systems and mass communication. The differences and similarities were highlighted.

SELF ASSESSMENT EXERCISE

1. Discuss problems of indigenous communication.
2. List the differences and similarities between African communication systems and mass communication. 

6.0 TUTOR-MARKED ASSIGNMENT 

  1.  Discuss five characteristics of African communication systems. 
  2.  List four similarities between African communication systems and mass communication.
  3. Discuss two of the similarities between African communication systems and mass communication. 

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