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Africa With Ade Adepitan, BBC2, review: Paralympian's tour of the continent was a gold-medal standard travel documentary

The i logo The i 24/02/2019 Jeff Robson
Ade Adepitan sitting at a beach © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd

Africa With Ade Adepitan, BBC2, Sunday, 9pm ****

Africa With Ade Adepitan has been an excellent Sunday night documentary strand, but this week  it was time to say farewell with regret to the presenter and gold medal Paralympian as he completed a fascinating journey around the continent.

As always, he combined boundless enthusiasm with a perceptive awareness of the many problems to be overcome, and had the gift of coaxing revealing, pointed testimony from interviewees ranging from a Chinese entrepreneur to a marine biologist – their swimming with dugongs in the azure waters off the Mozambique coast was a stand-out moment in a beautifully filmed series.

a man standing next to a body of water © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd

This was contrasted with the harsh living conditions of disabled people elsewhere in the country. Adepitan talked to Castigo, a wheelchair-bound teenager who had experienced ingrained prejudice in a country where some people retain the superstitious belief that disability is contagious. The frustration of both men was palpable as minibuses into town simply ignored them.

But a visit to the local branch of Light For The World, an NGO  encouraging greater understanding of disability and providing sports and education opportunities throughput Africa, was a more positive experience as Adepitan joined Castigo's wheelchair basketball team and saw how sport eased the tensions of the players after "a life of being beaten down".

a group of people in a room © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd

'Betrayal' of Mandela

Journeying on through South Africa  he was visibly moved to see the effects of ivory poaching as he joined a conservation patrol, and at the sight of a Johannesburg community on derelict land arbitrarily destroyed by the police. But again, he kept himself out of the story, leaving it to the bereft but dignified residents to eloquently lament that this was a "betrayal" of what Nelson Mandela had fought for.

a couple of people that are standing in the grass © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd

Zimbabwe at first seemed an equally poverty and crime-stricken destination. But observing the country's first-ever music video shoot by a Western artist, the singer Shingai Shoniwa, and looking at the sheer hard work and entrepreneurial spirit of gold miners armed with little more than pickaxes and ingenuity simply staking a claim and finding enough of the precious metal tio earn a living, he came to the conclusion that "Africa's greatest resource is its people".

Uplifting odyssey

It was a fittingly optimistic note on which to end an uplifting odyssey. Hang the expense, BBC, and send him off somewhere again forthwith. As far as I'm concerned, this is what the licence fee's for.

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