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Originally from Zimbabwe, Addmore Shonhai is associate professor of biochemistry at the University of Venda in South Africa. He is a leading figure on the continent in research into heat-shock proteins — the proteins cells produce in response to stressful conditions such as the rise in temperature associated with malaria.

A period of postdoctoral research at the University of Marburg in Germany has left Shonhai with close links to German researchers, and an admiration for the value that the self-styled “Land of Ideas” places on science.

In this audio interview, he draws parallels between the challenges faced by post-war Germany and those currently facing Africa. While he believes science has a vital role to play in addressing these challenges, he laments the lack of clear science policy in many African countries. He says: “It’s very frustrating sometimes talking to colleagues who want to do science, but whose quest to grow as scientists is being confounded by incompetence, especially at the leadership level.”

The interview was recorded in June at the Conference of African-German Cooperation Projects on Infectious Diseases in Yaoundé, Cameroon, organised by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft).