In this interview during IYBSSD opening ceremony, Umezuruike Linus Opara of the UNESCO International Centre for Biotechnology, argued that with quality research infrastructure, young people from Africa will be able to solve diverse world problems.
I want to see it in my lifetime. Possibly happen this year. State of the art infrastructure where young people from any part of Africa can come and get their hands dirty to solve problems. Well, my job is basically two areas. One is to conduct research for development, particularly in the agrifood sector.
So what the research we do is to enable to link agricultural production to markets using technologies for production, for post harvest and for marketing, for distribution, for shipping and quality management. So we are one of those people who apply basic sciences to develop technologies and innovation for value addition in agriculture. So we are the forefront of utilising basic sciences and transforming them into technologies and innovation to create value.
What links can you make between your research and sustainable development?
One typical example is the problem of food losses on food waste. So what is it? About 50% of what we produce does not reach to the consumer. So what we do now is to look at the physics, the chemistry, the biology of the product so that we understand how they spoil, and then we look at technological interventions that can extend the shelf life. So that’s what we do.
What is your biggest wish for this International Year?
I want to see in my lifetime, possibly happen this year, state of the art infrastructure where young people from any part of Africa can come and get their hands dirty to solve problems. Base infrastructure, power, equipment, facilities, those things we take for granted where our school in New Zealand, where I worked in Europe, those things we took for granted, many parts of Africa don’t have access to that. My dream is that before the end of this year I should have a state of the art laboratory somewhere in Nigeria where young people can come and get their hands dirty. And poverty is not just about money, it’s poverty of knowledge is the worst one. So we have a lot of knowledge concentrated in some parts of the world. And that is good because somebody has to pay for it. But for the world to live together in harmony, we must be able to cross boundaries.