What are the avenues of communication that rural Africans use to organize their collective action? In many areas it is increasingly cell phones, as I noticed during Occupy Nigeria in January of last year. However, many of my interviewees in the Niger Delta were middle-aged women who did not have or regularly use cell phones. I was interested to learn that most demonstrations and meetings, including oil protests, are still initially organized using town criers (and then the messages of town criers were further spread through word of mouth).
Town criers or “gong-men,” typically teenage boys with a noise-making instrument, disseminate general information about events and the social welfare of communities. They have always constituted an important political tool for local chiefs, as it is a low cost means of communication that reduces confusion about new information. Chiefs have a near monopoly on this form of indigenous communication because of their insider status and traditional power within the community, a form of communication that outsiders, including oil companies and the federal government, cannot access. This post that I have a link to below notes that town criers are used in urban areas as well as rural ones, although I did not observe them in cities when I was there.