Monday, February 21, 2011

Bono weighs in on Africa's future

U2 singer Bono believes that the future is bright for Africa. The celebrity activist says that Africa will soon become an economic powerhouse that may even eclipse China.

From the Guardian, writer John Mulholland inverviews Bono on his optimistic outlook for the continent.

Most people are saying that the 21st century will be China's. You say that it will be Africa's. Why?

Well, go talk to the Chinese. Why are they pumping so much investment into Africa? Why are they creating such a huge presence in Africa? They know where the future is. Ask them.

You know, these African lions are going to be a match for the Asian tigers. If the right economic plans are made and civic society can keep the vision honest, it will make our interest irrelevant. I never felt so good to feel so useless. These African lions will put us out of business.

I look at Mo Ibrahim and, although he might be an elder statesman, I see him as the new voice of Africa. People like him, they are drowning out our voices and so they should.

And so the future of aid in Africa is?

We mustn't forget that in general aid budgets are under threat, although thankfully not in the UK. And we mustn't forget that people's lives are dependent on it in the near term. And smart aid gets great results. A global alliance for vaccines has averted more than 5 million deaths this last decade and the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria saves more than 4,000 lives a day. It's just about getting the balance right for the future and ensuring our smart aid today builds self-sustaining systems for the future .

And in terms of aid, let's remember the good stories that came out of debt cancellation and the Gleneagles promises. Let's not forget these success stories. In most cases, as verified by the World Bank, Africa's governments spent that money wisely and pulled millions of people out of poverty and despair. And that has helped destroy the mythology that money is wasted.

But we mustn't forget that there are concrete things we can do to speed Africa's path to the future, things that don't involve money. As part of the global grassroots Publish What You Pay coalition, ONE has lately been focusing on the extractive industries. We've seen the rush to extract oil, gas and minerals from poorer countries across the world. Our concern is how best to protect those countries and ensure citizens benefit. How to stop them going down the road of other countries suffering from the resource curse. How can you do that?

So the movement we're part of lobbied for an amendment to a finance bill in the US last year, to make legally sure that companies that are taking resources out of Africa have to disclose what they pay governments for the right to do that.

Now we're seeing leaders in Europe catching on, with Sarkozy telling me he'll push this at the EU. We're also looking for British leadership on this. Our mission is to make this a global requirement. So eventually there'll be no place to hide, and civil society groups will be able to challenge their government if the money they are making from the nations' resources isn't being used in the right way. Mo Ibrahim has said that this deal is bigger than debt cancellation for Africa. I'm proud to support the "publish what you pay" campaign that has been leading this issue for years.

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