Bono Pleads with West to Relieve Africa's Poverty
Reuters, Wed May 29, 1:57 PM ET
By Tsegaye Tadesse
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (Reuters) - Irish rock star Bono made an impassioned appeal to rich nations Wednesday to
increase aid to Africa and drop past debts, saying it was in their interests to stop poor countries from degenerating into
another Afghanistan (news - web sites).
“It is just not acceptable that Ethiopia, where 62 percent of adults cannot read, where one million children are orphans, is paying $100 million a year to us," Bono said in a speech punctuated by applause and cheers from delegates at the African Development Bank's (ADB) annual conference.
"This is not acceptable on any level, anywhere, anyhow," the frontman of rock band U2 told the closing session of the conference in the Ethiopian capital.
Bono is on the last leg of a four-nation African tour with U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill. The unlikely couple have visited Ghana, South Africa and Uganda, looking at poverty and social and development issues, and Bono has been pushing for more foreign aid every step of the way.
"We need to put billions more in, and we must see it for what it is: value for money, smart money for the United States and
Europe, because of the chaos that will ensue if we don't," he said.
"It will cost us a lot more in the long run. Look what happened when we abandoned Afghanistan."
Bono, who exchanged his usually casual clothes for a suit and tie -- though his trademark sunglasses remained -- attacked
Western institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), saying their approach to Africa was a "new colonialism."
Turning to his companion O'Neill, who was sitting in the front row of the conference hall, Bono appealed to him to "tear
down the wall" -- a wall he said was built of tariffs, of quotas and of subsidies.
"We discovered what you here today already knew," he said. "That a lot of the problems facing the developing world are
structural -- deeply embedded in a dysfunctional relationship with the developed world that's been so wrong for so long."
Bono praised O'Neill for inviting him on the tour of Africa and cautioned that the visit had raised expectations.
"The trip has raised hopes," he said. "It would be scandalous to raise hope without delivery. The Secretary knows about
delivering results. Measured results."
Bono, who has repeatedly criticized Washington's decision to subsidize its own farmers while telling countries in Africa to
stop subsidizing their own industries, said aid by itself was not the door to a developed economy.
"African countries need to be allowed to trade fairly. Not free trade, but fair trade," he said.
The Dublin-born singer also stressed the pressing need to sit up and take note of the AIDS epidemic sweeping the
"The AIDS epidemic is acting as the wake up call for all of us around the world, to put excuses and old attitudes behind us,"
he said. "There are a few big decisions that we simply can't wait on any longer.
"In the last 10 days while we have been on this trip in sub-Saharan Africa, 55,000 people have died of AIDS, $400 million
has been spent by Africans on debt payments -- much of this to the IMF and World Bank -- and 14,000 mothers have
given HIV to their children in childbirth," he said.
"Can you believe that? I cannot believe that. It is insanity."
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