On Last Africa Stop, Bono Pledges Fight Over Trade

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ACCRA -- After a successful campaign to cancel the debts of some of the world's poorest countries, rocker-activist Bono is about to take on the world's powerbrokers to improve the terms of trade for Africa.

On the last stop of a six-nation African tour, Bono said on Wednesday there was a new mood of optimism on the continent and new entrepreneurs were emerging, but farm subsidies and other trade barriers in large markets like the United States and Europe were blocking progress.

In an interview with Reuters, Bono said he recognized taking on the trade issue on behalf of Africa was not going to be easy.

"We're up against vested interests and big powerful lobby groups," he said after touring a market in the capital Accra.

He also said he and other trade activists would need to get better at explaining to U.S. and European farmers how their agricultural subsidies were hurting African producers.

Bono hopes his involvement will help give Africa a voice at the World Trade Organization's global Doha Round of talks, currently stalled over agricultural issues.

"The social movements will give us political muscle and that makes it doable, but it is going to be a big fight," he added.

On the Africa tour Bono has visited textile and apparel factories in Lesotho and Tanzania where businesses have closed and jobs were lost because of the phasing out of the Multi-Fibre Agreement, which gave Asian producers greater access to developed markets as quotas under the agreement were scrapped.

In Mali, he visited a cotton-growing community to see the direct impact of U.S. cotton subsidies, which African cotton producers say depress world prices and ruin their economies.

In Ghana, Bono said uncertainty over the future of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which gives developing countries preferential access to the United States market, was hanging like a "Sword of Damocles" over the head of African countries.

Earlier in the day, the rock star met Ghanaian businesspeople to better understand constraints on businesses.

"People need aid because there is still poverty but more important for everyone is the need for trade," he told his audience. "Africa should be able to create an alternative to the sort of Chinese domination of the apparel sector," he added.

The U2 lead singer played a key role in marshalling popular support for debt forgiveness for some of the world's poorest countries and used his fame to influence world leaders in personal meetings.

In June last year the Group of Eight industrialized countries agreed to write off the debts of 18 countries, most of them in Africa, and double aid to the continent by 2010.

At a meeting with Bono on Wednesday, Ghana's President John Kufuor praised the rock star's work for Africa but told him that increased trade had to go hand-in-hand with aid to address the continent's underlying poverty.

"Our part of the world is in transition and it will take some muscle to keep up the changes," he told the rock star after a meeting. "With the right policies and some encouragement, we will be able through partnerships to compete. For Ghana to get to such a position we will need some aid," he added.

Copyright © 2006 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

1 Comment

Bono should be commended for his tireless efforts on ending poverty in Africa. There are so many corrupt governments across that continent that unfortunatley he will never succeed in his efforts. I for one believe that charity begins at home. In all due respect, stop wasting your time in Africa when there are plenty of children in Ireland that need your help desperatley. I am well aware of the things he has done for his home land but they don't amount to the time and money he has put into the African cause. Maybe he should try to bring peace, prosparity and comfort within his own confinds, set an example of what could be in Africa and maybe they would follow suit. In no way is this statement a kick in Bonos' arse. I am a huge fan of U2 and even bigger fan of Bono but take care of the people who put you in the position and capablities first and then try and save the world. I suck at spelling

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on May 26, 2006 10:52 PM.

Bono in Ghana, Africa (May 24-25, 2006) was the previous entry in this blog.

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