Richard Goutia – "Le petit" (the little one) now has a voice
In the Central African Republic, radio changed Richard Goutia's life. Having gone from shy child to radio presenter, he has now become a technical director and trainer at the age of 43. He has installed and maintained equipment, or trained technicians, for almost all of the 41 community radio stations in the country.
Profile by Emmanuel de Solère Stintzy.
It's not easy to talk about yourself…
From the very first question, Richard Goutia puts his head down and looks at the floor — a remnant of his childhood shyness. As Davy, his older brother, recalls, Richard was reserved and quiet. He made and fixed stuff, including the radio when it accidentally fell. His little brother confirms the story with a slight smile. When I was six or seven, I broke two or three radios to see who was talking inside all day without ever getting tired! Richard also made his own radio around the same time by putting boxes, speakers and batteries together on a wooden board to pick up Radio Centrafrique.
The budding handyman also shone at school. Our late father said Richard was 'exceptional'. I never saw him revise at home because he got everything straight away at school! Davy recalls again. As a young man at Etienne Sabonga vocational secondary school in Bangui, he thrived in his passions, which included mechanics, geometry and physics. Then, while he was studying industrial engineering at the Institut Supérieur de téchnologie (higher institute of technology), Richard did an internship at Radio Centrafrique: My childhood curiosity resurfaced. I studied how, technically, the sound went from the field in the provinces to the radio broadcasts or programmes in Bangui, before going back to the listeners.
Radio: a development tool
Richard Goutia was then contacted by Radio Notre Dame (RND) to upgrade the radio station's technical equipment. He teamed up with specialists from the neighbouring DR Congo, who were amazed by the young talent they were working with. Richard later became technical manager at RND, as well as a presenter. We were surprised to hear him presenting on the radio one day. All the family said, 'the little one is starting to speak!' He just laughed! Davy chuckles to himself. When Ornella, who would later become Richard's wife, first joined RND, she found him welcoming and he helped show her the ropes.
The other presenters saw me as competition but he told me to observe, take notes and ask questions. Thanks to him, I became a presenter and producer at Radio Ndéké Luka, then Head of Programmes at RND. Now, since 2022, I have been working at Guira FM (the UN radio station in the Central African Republic).
The radio therefore sparked a vocation for teaching within Richard Goutia:
Training other people has really helped me share. At some community radio stations, there were people who'd never touched a computer or done any editing. That prompted me to link journalism with technical learning. When people didn't understand, I explained it in simple terms in Sango. Some people I trained have gone on to be maintenance managers, while others are national radio correspondents. With CFI'sRecovery and Stabilisation project (2016–2019), I discovered another way to support colleagues: I would oversee them and they themselves would identify their mistakes. I would then help them correct those mistakes".
Bérenger Silvère Romaric Kouzoundji, from Radio Ndjoku in Bayanga, says, When I worked as a technical assistant before, I only did little repairs. Richard showed me the transmitters, electrical systems, computers and the mixer. Thanks to him, I became a technical manager, broadcast journalist and presenter at my radio station. I call him "formateur" (trainer) or "chef" (boss), but he tells me to stop and says that we're colleagues.
Even after installing and maintaining equipment, and training technicians, at almost all of the 41 community radio stations in the Central African Republic, Richard Goutia, Technical Director of the RMCC (Réseau des médias communautaires de Centrafrique — Central African Republic Community Media Network), is still modest: "I dedicate myself to helping others. Radio is a development tool. In 2022, when we set up Radio Mbili in Bocaranga, people from villages over 50 kilometres away would come by or call to say, "Thank you for talking about farming and health. We've been waiting for this for a long time!" Thanks to the radio, "little" Richard now has a voice, as do many communities.
In ten years...
When asked Where do you see yourself in ten years?, without hesitation and for once very sure of himself, Richard Goutia replies, I'll be retired! My body has given up. I'd like to quit the installation side of things but keep training people. I really enjoy it. It's like being a farmer who plants a seed and then watches a plant grow from the ground and bear fruit.
One of those fruits, Bérenger Silvère Romaric Kouzoundji, Technical Manager of Radio Ndjoku in Bayanga, encouraged his trainer to continue along that path: In ten years, Richard could be the founder of a training centre for radio technicians. He could train technicians from other countries, or even from all over the world!
Jean-Ignace Manengou, his former Chairman at the ARC (Association des radios communautaires de Centrafrique — Association of Community Radio Stations in Central African Republic), which has since become the RMCC, suggests another option: Richard could remain as Technical Director of the RMCC, but with all the means and resources to quickly step in at all the community radio stations.
Davy, his older brother, encourages his younger brother to go back to his studies to get more degrees. Richard only says, I would like to get better at fixing transmitters, but also computing, holding remote training sessions and working with online radio. I want to learn more so I can help others.