Pride of place in the BBC’s upcoming Africa Lives season goes to a series called Geldof In Africa. Six 30 minute reports, with a related coffee table book, will start on BBC1 at 7.30pm on Monday of next week.
The series finishes on Wednesday 6 July, which is the day Bob Geldof has called for mass protests against the G8 in Gleneagles and Edinburgh.
The television series takes us throughout Africa looking at issues including poverty, war, slavery and religion.
One episode focuses on the commodities trade. Geldof asks, “If this farm produces bananas, pineapples, apples, oranges, cola beans and cocoa nuts, and then it sells them to the biggest companies on the planet — how come these people don’t live in villas on the Riviera?”
Having explained the prohibitions on the processing of these raw materials inside Africa, Bob Geldof answers his own question.
“Those are our trade rules and they’re wrong. They stop these people being able to do anything except grow stuff at prices we control.
“They can never put their pineapples in cans, or juice their oranges, or send us their cocoa powder. They’ll always live in huts and never on the Riviera, even if they wanted to.”
Another episode looks at the desperation of children caught up in the wars in Uganda.
“The BBC has made a brave decision to schedule such material in peak time on its main channel,” says John Maguire, the series’s director.
With no little humour and a recurrent sense of hope, this series makes provocative demands of its audience.
Geldof’s emotional and humanitarian commitment to the people of Africa is unquestionable. There’s not an NGO, business chief, or politician in sight in this series. Nor is he doctrinaire about what the answers are.
But it is for us to pitch in to the agenda he’s setting. We can use this series as an excellent resource in schools and colleges.
Nick Grant is secretary of the NUT teachers’ union in Ealing, west London