1 March 2002

Africa: Rock Star Bono's Agenda For Africa

Washington, DC — "It's your melody, I'm gonna try and sing it," Bono, the lead singer of the rock band, U2, told a group of advocates for Africa at the headquarters of the charity, Africare, in Washington, DC.

He was seeking advice and support for a group he is forming to focus public attention on issues confronting Africa: DATA - Debt, Aid, Trade for Africa.

Bono, a long-time advocate of debt relief in developing nations, called the Aids pandemic in Africa and the grinding poverty affecting so many nations in Africa, "an emergency". Africa has been ignored and "time is running out," he told the group.

He believes his celebrity status can help open doors and cites interest from conservative Republicans in the U.S. Congress as well as interest from corporate America. "Give us a package for Africa to be announced at the G8 and we'll be in the photo," he said, explaining that one thing his involvement helps with "is your crap PR."

The G8, or Group of Eight of the world's top industrialized countries - the U.S., Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia will meet in Kananaskis, Alberta, Canada, in late June and Bono wants to press a DATA agenda there - "kind of a Marshall Plan for Africa," he says. "It's a good analogy I think, particularly post-September 11th," he said at a New York press conference during the World Economic Forum there. "The United States invested in Europe after the Second World War as a bulwark against Sovietism. And it had debt cancellation as part of it, and trade, etc."

"At the moment," said Bono, "Africa is in the same kind of vulnerable position that Europe was - to other extremists and ideologies."

Bono told the Washington group that Canadian Prime Minister, Jean Chretien, had told him that Africa will be "center-stage" at the G-8 meeting and that Canada was prepared to open trade to all of the poorest countries of Africa.

With money from the Bill and Linda Gates Foundation, DATA plans to open offices in Washington, DC. and he told the group he is looking for ideas about long-term strategy as well as immediate needs. "He really wants to do this," said Ray Almeida of Bread for the World, one of the participating groups. "This is a lot bigger than a concert," said Africare founder and President, C. Payne Lucas.

Some participants say they plan to get together early next week to formulate a joint statement to Bono or perhaps "a laundry list" of recommendations.


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