Africa Lab

Africa Lab


Africa Lab - Programme 1 of 2

Are science and technology the key to ensuring Africa catches up with the rest of the world?

In the first of two programmes, Hugh Levinson travels to Nigeria and South Africa to discover how science has become central to economic development.

He meets researchers who believe passionately that they can make a difference to their continent ? and who are making enormous personal sacrifices to do so.

Without technological development, they argue, Africa will continue to be just a supplier of raw natural resources to the rest of the world, failing to add value through knowledge.

But the challenge of change is awesome. The whole continent currently produces less than a tenth of one percent of all the world?s patents.

One stark problem is the dramatic brain drain of the continent?s brightest minds.

Listen to the programme

First broadcast 29 April 2008

Africa Lab - Programme 2 of 2

Hugh Levinson continues his investigation into the role of science in African development asking what kind of research the continent really needs to be doing.

It?s clear that there are benefits from applied research ? such as the development of new cassava strains by scientists at the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture in Nigeria.

But does the country need a space programme as well? It has already launched two satellites, and is planning more. Those behind the programme argue that satellites can provide essential information, on water resources, pollution and agricultural land use.

The argument is that by adopting this existing technology, countries like Nigeria can leapfrog a generation of development. This has already happened with mobile phones, which are changing millions of lives in Africa.

Not everyone agrees. Some researchers argue Africa needs to conduct its own basic research ? even if there isn?t a clear practical outcome for development.

They say that unless Africa trains its brightest minds to the highest levels, in the long term it will not be able to stimulate scientists to produce the research it needs.

Listen to the programme

First broadcast 6 May 2008
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