Ruling airwaves: Teenage radio ‘station’ owner dares to dream

Peter Ngugi explains how he runs his Ime FM radio station during an interview with the Nation in Nakuru on July 23, 2018. PHOTO | AYUB MUIYURO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • His is a mobile broadcasting unit comprising a 5kg wooden box that looks something close to a mixer.

  • Mr Ngugi’s invention took three years to actualise, but he is proud of his work.

  • It has earned him many admirers, including the President.

The time is 6.58pm. Like many homesteads around the country, residents of Ime village in Subukia, Nakuru County, are tuning in to their favourite radio station to catch up on the latest news. However, one channel seems to be ruling the airwaves here: Ime FM.

A voice comes on air as the clock ticks 7pm: “Good evening Ime, it is my hope that you had a wonderful day. Welcome to our news today brought to you by Peter Ngugi.”

Then follows a couple of minutes of the presenter relaying news to attentive villagers.


The only difference with your everyday radio channel is that with Ime, the news is punctuated with background sounds of cows mooing, goats bleating or children crying.

It is a village station.

Many villagers are always tuned in to the station, which covers an eight-kilometre radius.

They say all news is local, and Ime residents know exactly what ‘their’ station gives them.


“And from around our village, the chief today held a baraza to sensitise residents on the importance of maintaining peace. He also informed them about upcoming bursary awards for students. Elsewhere, two men from locations A and B are sleeping on the side of Karuki road after they took too much alcohol,” the anchor announces.

Welcome to the journalistic world of Peter Ngugi, Ime FM’s founder and presenter.

The 18-year-old is a class eight leaver. He named the station Ime after his village.


If your idea of a radio station is an entire building with sophisticated equipment including on-air and production machines, audio processors and FM transmitters, Ngugi’s invention may shock you.

His is a mobile broadcasting unit comprising a 5kg wooden box that looks something close to a mixer, usually carried in a bag as he sources for news, which he broadcasts live or during the evening bulletin.

Mr Ngugi will easily pass for a seller of local music CDs.

The waves booster, microphones and speakers are either attached to the wooden box or are inside the bag.


“I made this radio station using electronic waste and radio spare parts. I have been repairing radios for a while and I come across many spare parts rendered useless after radios fail to work,” Mr Ngugi said.

The unit comprises old transistors, ACs, capacitors, speakers, batteries, radio switches and an inbuilt coil, which helps in adjusting channels.

The station has a normal radio aerial, supported by other radio spare parts, which act as waves booster to enable airing of programmes.

“It is powered by five normal radio batteries or this solar panel attached on it during the day,” said Mr Ngugi.


His initial investment was less than Sh5,000.

Mr Ngugi’s invention took three years to actualise, but he is proud of his work. It has earned him many admirers, not only in the village but the man occupying the highest seat in the land.

He displays some photos. “These pictures were taken last year during the devolution conference in Naivasha. I had been invited to showcase my talent to President Uhuru Kenyatta by the county’s youth director. In the photos, I am explaining to him about my radio station,” said Ngugi.

During his minute of fame, Mr Ngugi asked President Kenyatta to help him secure a broadcasting licence. “He directed Governor Kinuthia Mbugua na unichungie huyu kijana (take care of this young man for me),” Mr Ngugi said.


He regrets that he has not been assisted to date. He is, however, hopeful that with Mr Mbugua’s current role as State House comptroller, lady luck will smile at him.

His biggest story so far is the Solai dam tragedy, which occurred in a village not far from Ime. Many of the residents got to know of the disaster through his station.

Mr Ngugi, who scored a modest 200 marks in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examination at Ndugiri Primary School, harbours big dreams for his station. “My aim is to grow this station so that I can employ our youth who graduate from colleges and universities but end up jobless,” he said.