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Bono campaigns for Africa's poor

Posted on Wednesday, May 22 @ 02:27:18 UTC by Macphisto
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(CNN) -- ACCRA, Ghana -- Irish singer Bono is starting one of the most unlikely tours ever to be undertaken by a rock star -- with no roadies, screaming fans or instruments.

He has joined forces with a senior member of the U.S. government to launch a campaign to highlight the need for effective spending on development in Africa.

Bono, lead singer with U2, is with U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill in Ghana where the unlikely pair will spend 10 days together travelling through four African countries.

They will visit Ghana, South Africa, Uganda and Ethiopia to draw attention to the acute needs of the poverty-stricken region, using one another's position and celebrity to spark interest in a topic that each feels much of the world tries to ignore.

Although they share a common aim, their appearances could not be more different, with Bono in sporting standard rock-star chic -- wraparound blue-shaded glasses and casual dress -- and silver-haired O'Neill in the buttoned-down garb of a senior politician and businessman.

"I'm the messy one, I don't have a very tidy room and I eat pizza," Bono joked.

Bono has a long-standing interest in international aid issues, especially involving Africa.

O'Neill acknowledges this by calling him a "substantive" individual who can appeal to young people effectively.

The pair are not strangers. In March, they shared a platform with President George W. Bush at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington.

The U.S. is committed to substantially more foreign aid spending of up to $5 billion a year.

Bono said "micromanaging economies from Washington" was not an answer to Africa's needs, where much of the population lives on $1 a day or less.

"I do not agree with outside interference in the economies of the Southern Hemisphere and I doubt Secretary O'Neill does either," Bono told Reuters.

"Not only is it a bad idea, it can't be done," O'Neill responded.

He said it was vital to find a way to equip youngsters with education skills early so that they can be "intellectually independent" from as young as age 10 and able to continue learning on their own.

Bono cites progress in Uganda, which qualified for relief under an IMF-run programme called the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, as a blueprint for the rest of Africa.

He said: "The success in Uganda (stemmed from) people being able to see where the money came from, how it was spent; notices had to appear in every region saying schools were being built (because of) debt cancellation monies.

"I think that's why this idea that you can play Big Brother, like an older brother that then turns into Big Brother, is a real problem that has to be dismantled.

"We have to empower the people on the ground to work on these issues as part of a clear and transparent process."

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