Life

TV Quickfire: Africa With Ade Adepitan presenter on why we should watch new show

Ade Adepitan (45) is on a journey to uncover how modern Africa is changing in a new four-part docu-series, Africa With Ade Adepitan. We quizzed him about the show

Ade Adepitan with footballers at the ASEC Mimosa training academy in Abidjan, Ivory Coast

WHAT ARE YOU HOPING TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS SERIES?

I was hoping, really, to try and change the narrative on Africa, and the preconceptions that people have had in the past. (I want) to show that there's more to Africa than just war and famine and poverty – there's the beauty of it, the complexity of the people, the diversity of the continent. And a lot of people just see Africa as one place, when it's – what, 50 countries? Close to 50 countries. And it's just incredible. The people are so different, the language is so different, the food is different, and it's stunning. It's a beautiful place.

YOU COVER A LOT OF GROUND. WHICH COUNTRY SURPRISED YOU MOST?

The one that surprised me – or left me in awe at its potential – was probably The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Just its vastness, its beauty, the amount of resources there, and the people – they've got this vibrancy about them. I was getting this overriding tone throughout my journey in Africa, which is that people are fed up; they're tired of war and conflict and corruption, they want something better. It made me look at the bigger picture and see how we, here in Europe, are wanting to break up. I'm not going to say the 'B' word – but what that split might mean for nationalism, these guys have seen it on their doorsteps.

CAN YOU ELABORATE?

For us generally, when we have conflict, our [soldiers] fly away to far-off countries and we don't really get to see or understand what they've been through. But the people that I met in Africa, they've seen it. For the last 20 years, their neighbours have fought neighbours, they've had to dodge snipers to get to school, they've dealt with extreme poverty, and they don't want any more. And we don't want to go down that road. The human race has this frustrating ability to repeat cycles and make mistakes again and again, and I can see there are some valuable lessons to learn from Africa.

WHAT'S YOUR HAVE A HIGHLIGHT?

The gorillas in DRC were wonderful, man. For someone like me who grew up in Newham, East London, the last thing I was expecting to be was a few feet away from mountain gorillas! Watching those gorillas play with the wardens and gamekeepers was incredible; I really wanted to get down there and just hang with the gorillas. I was told there was a number of reasons why I couldn't – partly because we carry diseases that can be transmitted to the gorillas, but also because I would've been like a new toy. It would've picked me up by the wheelchair and there would be nothing anyone could do about it.

HOW TRICKY WAS IT TO NAVIGATE AFRICA IN A WHEELCHAIR?

I always knew it was going to be difficult, but do you know what, using the London Underground is difficult. I just had to be properly prepared and use the right equipment – make sure I had the right tyres. I also used my crutches quite a lot, but watching [the show back], there's a lot of times where the journey is highlighted. It wasn't something that we purposefully did, but it's important that people see that if you have a disability, you can do these things, you can travel to these places. You just have to be prepared.

:: Africa With Ade Adepitan is on BBC Two, Sundays. Catch up on the BBC iPlayer.

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