Friday, June 17, 2005

Africa Could Be Like India in 20 Years - Bono

Sctsman.com -- Africa could become an emerging economic power in the style of India within 20 years if the rich world gets together to help the continent at next month’s G8 summit in Scotland, rock star and poverty campaigner Bono predicted tonight.

The U2 singer said future generations would view as “ridiculous” the current assumption that Africa is a hopeless case that can never be helped out of poverty.

He urged leaders of the G8 group of industrialised nations not to allow concerns over the corruption of some African administrations to stand in the way of a historic deal to double aid, cancel debt and make trade fairer.

Bono has been a strong advocate of the Make Poverty History campaign and has backed Prime Minister Tony Blair’s decision to make assistance for Africa the cornerstone of the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Perthshire, on July 6-8.

In an interview with BBC2’s Newsnight, he acknowledged that no campaign and no reform could rid the world entirely of poverty, but said: “You can’t fix every problem, but the ones you can, you must.”

He said: “You need T-shirts, you need slogans. The idea is not to make poverty in the obvious sense history, but extreme poverty, stupid poverty, children dying for lack of food in their bellies in the 21st century. This we can do.

“There will be a moment that will come in 20 years, maybe 40 years, when we will look back at what is happening now and it will look ridiculous that we should let such numbers die for no good reason.”

He rejected the notion that money poured into Africa would be wasted because the continent would always remain poor.

“Look at it as start-up investment in countries,” he said. “Trade, in the end, is what is going to sort out the problems, but to get these countries off their knees, they do need to deal with problems like the Aids emergency and malaria.

“There is amazing progress being made in India. Look at Second World economies like Malaysia. I think in 20 years, we will see Africa like that.”

Labour MP Kate Hoey today called on Mr Blair to withdraw South African President Thabo Mbeki’s invitation to attend the G8 summit, because of his refusal to condemn human rights abuses in neighbouring Zimbabwe.

Bono said it was “very sad, very upsetting” to see Mr Mbeki supporting Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in public, but added that he believed the South African leader was exerting pressure for change behind the scenes.

And he insisted Mr Mbeki must attend Gleneagles: “We need him there because we have to have a deal for Africa.

“You can’t diminish what is happening in Zimbabwe, but you have to remember that Africa is a continent. It is not just one country, it is 50 countries.”

Bono condemned the recent killing of 36 civilians by police in Ethiopia, which has led to the suspension of £20 million worth of aid from the UK.

But he urged the G8 leaders: “Don’t write off a continent because of some bad leadership.

“Look at countries like Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania, Benin, Mali. There are lots of countries that are showing good governance and leadership and tackling corruption.”

Bono insisted the deal being drawn up for Gleneagles would involve clear and transparent monitoring of the way aid cash is spent, to avoid a repetition of past abuses in which African leaders lavished money intended for the poor on their own palaces and military.

“We need to double aid in order to deal with the level of problems in Africa, but it needs to be smart money, well spent,” he said.

“We also need to deal with trade, which is much trickier, because in Europe we have the Common Agricultural Policy which stops the poorest of the poor trading with us, while we flood their markets with our cheap goods.”

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