Bono heads back to Africa to see progress, needs

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By Lesley Wroughton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Irish rocker and activist Bono is taking his crusade for Africa on the road.

U2's lead singer will tour Lesotho, Rwanda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Mali and Ghana on a 10-day trip starting on Tuesday to examine how his successful campaign for debt relief can now help combat poverty and disease, his advocacy group DATA said on Thursday.

The tour comes four years after Bono focused the world's attention on Africa's plight when he and then U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill traveled around the continent to highlight the need for Western governments to increase aid and erase poor countries' debt burdens.

Bono is credited with spearheading the successful campaign to erase the debts of poor countries, with world leaders praising his effort to learn the issues and be a constructive participant in policymaking.

In June the Group of Eight industrialized countries, meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland, agreed to cancel the debts of 18 low-income countries, most of them in Africa, to free up resources to tackle poverty.

The G-8 powers also pledged to double aid to Africa by 2010 to about $47 billion.

Much has changed since Bono's trip with O'Neill in 2002. The continent is enjoying its best growth rates in more than 30 years, due not only to a boom in global commodity prices but also to improvements in government economic policies and fewer conflicts.

HEALTH CARE, EDUCATION

However, critics say years of foreign aid has done little to effectively change the lives of many Africans.

Jamie Drummond, executive director of DATA, or Debt AIDS Trade Africa, the advocacy group co-founded by Bono, said the tour will try to gauge if the increased attention on Africa is making a difference for such things as health care and education.

"We're going to look at foreign assistance working on the ground in Africa and see what is working and what is not," he told Reuters.

"Effective aid backing good African leadership can get results, so let's do more of it," said Drummond, adding, "Why would you not do more of it?"

In Washington, the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, in the early stages of crafting fiscal 2007 bills, has shaved off $2.4 billion from President George W. Bush's request for foreign aid as a way to help with tax cuts.

Drummond said such moves will derail the promises made to the world's poor, and Bono's goal is to keep policymakers' attention on Africa.

"The timing of this is extremely important, not just because you can see all the results on the ground, but because at this very moment top policymakers in all of the G-8 countries are looking at whether they can afford to keep their promises -- whether in Germany, Canada, Italy, or France, and above all in the U.S. Congress," he said.

Copyright © 2006 Reuters/VNU. All rights reserved.

4 Comments

Way to go Bono, again! Hope your trip goes well. Stay safe, and keep us all posted on your findings.

Bono is greatest rock star ever. His commitment to World issues and causes is unmatched. Others need to look at their own lives and consider how they could make a difference. Rappers make me sick. They care only about themselves. Spending gross amounts of money on things that just make them look stupid. They need to get kick in the ass and wake up. The counrty that they are from is dying infront of their eyes and they could not care less.

Love your guys concerts

A very well-researched study in the New York Times shows that in the age group of 13-24 year-olds, 70% surveyed said that were NOT influenced by celebrities espousing a charitable cause.

I presume that all of you are contributing 10% of your income to international charities now.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on May 11, 2006 11:55 PM.

Bono hopeful about 'breakthrough' in Sudanese peace was the previous entry in this blog.

Bono in Lesotho, Africa (May 17-18, 2006) is the next entry in this blog.

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