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Postcard from Namibia

16.05.2018 - Article

Short and sweet - project manager Dani Leese on the advantages of no-nonsense communication in Windhoek.

K! and Thnx - sometimes you only need a few letters to communicate
K!" and "Thnx" - sometimes you only need a few letters to communicate© Ruth Suermann

It's a chilly winter's morning in Windhoek and I'm sitting in the office snuggled in a down vest. My fingers are stiff with cold and I struggle to enter my email password. I drove into work and the steering wheel was so cold that the short time I spent in the car was enough to turn my fingers an unhealthy yellow. I'm regretting not bringing any gloves from Germany to Namibia with me. But prospects for the day are bright. By 10 a.m. the sun will shine through the office window as it does every day and the temperature will rise to around 22 degrees centigrade. Winter could be much worse.

Something that does little for my optimism, however, is that the emails I was hoping to find in my inbox aren't there. Yesterday, I emailed again the participants of an upcoming radio workshop as well as our project partner - the station which is supposed to be hosting the training and no one has written back. I've been trying to get replies for two weeks now and the workshop is due to start in three days.

I'm on long-term assignment at DW Akademie's regional office in Windhoek, Namibia where I work as a project manager. Right now we're mainly cooperating with community radio stations as part of an EU-supported project called "Community Voices." The goal is to give people a voice and improve the information available to communities.

Community Voices - allowing people to be heard
"Community Voices" - allowing people to be heard© DW Akademie

As project manager, my job is to coordinate the different activities of our partners and project sponsors: workshops, preparatory meetings, in-house trainings, consulting, program and listener studies, technical equipment, events and PR work. As you can imagine, communication is a pretty important part of my job.

So, with email getting no results, I switch to plan B - calling the project partner. But that's just as unsuccessful. The calls either don't go through or the recipients are unavailable. No one has voicemail so I can't even leave a message.

As I wonder whether I should start to worry, disaster is averted. No, not by a return call but by two short beeps announcing I've received a text message.

"Mtng" - Ah ha, the sender is in a Meeting.
"Whts up?" - And wants to know what's up. Err, how detailed should my answer be?

I decide it's worth replying with a longer sms as I actually have someone whose phone is on and seems interested. I re-type as a text message the formal invitation I've already emailed to the workshop participants so that the project partner has all the necessary information. I include information about the hotel, arrival details, travel cost reimbursements and the material the participants should bring with them. Luckily my fingers have become pretty fast and it only takes a few minutes. I add a line asking for confirmation that they'll come to the workshop and I send it off, full of hope.

Thirty seconds later, I have my first official response. It reads simply: "K!" OK!

Thrilled with my success, I forward the same message to all of the 15 invited participants. Five minutes later, I have confirmations from everybody. One of them even asked a question, via text message, of course. But everything seems to be perfectly fine, or do I mean "K!"?

Beep-beep

Communication is king - Dani Leese in the DW Akademie office in Windhoek
Communication is king - Dani Leese in the DW Akademie office in Windhuk© DW Akademie

Three days later, the training gets underway. It's the first of four related workshops on the broadcasting of political debates on the radio. The participants are young volunteers at community radio stations in different regions of the country. Together they want to record debates taking place before the November elections and share them via a community radio network. The workshops are taking place at our partner stations: in Katatura, Eenhana, Keetmanshoop, Gobabis and Rehoboth. Some participants have traveled up to 900 kilometers to take part, although sadly, I won't be there with them. A regional DW Akademie trainer has come from Cape Town to work with the Community Voices team. I'm holding the fort in Windhoek and am already working on the next part of the project.

Beep-beep. It's a message from the trainer at the workshop in Keetmanshoop.

"All hr"
"Cnt st W/shp"
"t cld"
"will st 10 late"

Now I know …. the workshop participants have arrived safe and sound but the workshop hasn't gotten underway yet because it's too cold. But at 10 o'clock things will get going.

Of course, the sun will have warmed up the seminar room by then.

"K!" and "Thnx" for the message.

Community Voices workshop participants in Keetmanshoop
"Community Voices" workshop participant in Keetmanshoop© DW Akademie

A Namibian telecommunications company has a special offer called Super-Aweh: 220 free text messages for only 15 Namibian dollars a week, or about one euro. That's a great deal and it’s time I signed up.

If you've got more questions about DW Akademie's activities in Namibia or the weather, simply send a text message to +264 81 340......


DW Akademie has been supporting media development in Namibia since the country's independence in 1990. Working in close cooperation with community media in rural areas is an important part of DW Akademie's approach in Namibia. DW Akademie trainers offer consulting on sustainable media management as well as training and consulting in the fields of human rights and election reporting. DW Akademie's Namibian projects are financed by the European Union and Germany's Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

© DW Akademie