ENDINBURG, SCOTLAND- In her spare time, nurse Oluwakemi Akinbobola can be found playing a variety of instruments in a studio near Glasgow Airport.
Originally from Nigeria, Kemi is a presenter on Jambo! Dedicated exclusively to people of African and Caribbean descent in Scotland.
The channel broadcasts in more than a dozen languages, including Pidgin, Yoruba, Swahili, Igbo, and French.
Jambo! – a Swahili word for “hello” – focuses on African and Caribbean themes, including sports and politics.
Kemi, 34, who immigrated to Scotland with her husband ten years ago, hosts a music and discussion show in Yoruba, a West African language.
Despite being based in Glasgow, the NHS worker says she is “zealous about preserving our heritage“.
She says, “We’re in a foreign land with few people from the same place.”
“So we’re trying to keep this language alive so we don’t forget where we came from.”
In part to help Scotland’s African and Caribbean populations navigate the pandemic, Cameroon-born media entrepreneur George Tah launched Jambo! Radio two years ago.
As a result of the multiple languages spoken within the community, there was a lack of understanding of Covid-19, said Tah.
“There is a definite difficulty in understanding mainstream communication messages for people whose first language is not English.”
A solution was found by dubbing public health information messages on Covid-19 from Scotland’s national clinical director Prof Jason Leitch in several languages, including Yoruba and Swahili.
As the Scottish community expands, the social enterprise expects its platform to grow.
There were more than 36,000 people in Scotland identifying as African, Caribbean, or black at the last census, conducted in 2011.
According to George, the true number is much higher since many members of the community did not complete the census forms.
There is evidence that the population has risen even further since then, according to him.
“Restaurants and shops catering to African and Caribbean customers are spreading across cities like Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Renfrewshire as indicators of the trend.”
“Additionally, there are multiple churches in Scotland that attract huge crowds of people of African and Caribbean descent.”
George says, in recent years, the influx of Africans and Caribbeans has been largely attributed to family or work connections with Scotland.
According to him, there are many reasons why they came to this country. “Many people have heard by word of mouth that Scotland is a good place to live, with a welcoming attitude and a good quality of life.”
The station, which airs Jambo! requests, fosters a sense of community for the diaspora north of the border, according to presenter Chineye (“Chinny”) Ochuba.
“Unlike England, where the African and Caribbean communities are on their third generation, we are probably on our first generation here in Scotland,” she says.
“Not many of us were born in Scotland, so just to have that sense of community – that sense of ‘oh, I can actually feel like I am back home’ – gives you what I call a taste of home.”
Currently, the station relies heavily on donations and grants to stay afloat, as Chinny is one of 34 employees – mostly volunteers. In addition, Social Investment Scotland provides support for the project. The organization’s remit extends beyond broadcasting.
In addition, Jambo has been providing digital and employability training to young people from the African and Caribbean communities who are not employed, educated, or trained.
As a result of its partnership with Renfrewshire Council, nearly a dozen youths have been able to find jobs by learning computer skills, writing CVs, and interviewing methods.
George, however, believes authorities need to do more to create opportunities for young people.
“We have a young African and Caribbean population in Scotland and it is growing every year,” he says.
“As a result, if we do not establish institutions that can support the entire system from the grassroots, it will be so difficult that we will end up with black kids or mixed-race kids running around the streets because they feel the entire system is against them.”
As of now, Jambo! is available through its website or mobile app, but digital radio will be available soon.
George says the goal is to make the community more accessible and reach a broader audience.
“In spite of the fact that there are mobile devices to access the internet today, younger people are more likely to use them to engage with the internet.”
“The digital radio allows us to reach people driving or older people who are not very adept at using their phones, but have digital radio at home.”