U2's Bono and His Marvellous Work

15 May 2000

U2's famous, eccentric rock star, Bono will team up with US Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill for a 10-day tour of the poorest countries in sub-Saharan Africa. They are pairing up, not for the summer concert circuit, but a 10-day tour of some of the most destitute countries in the world in sub-Saharan Africa. The trip starts on Monday the 20th of May, with O'Neill and Bono visiting schools, AIDS clinics and various World Bank development projects.

The plan was formed after a meeting in O'Neill's office a year ago, a discussion the treasury secretary says he was initially very reluctant to have.

Bono in concert.

"I said, 'He just wants to use me and I don't have time for this'," O'Neill explained recently.

He relented and agreed to a 30-minute meeting which expanded into a 90-minute brainstorming session with O'Neill coming away impressed at the depth of Bono's knowledge and commitment.

"He understood economic theory and he understood the impact of colonialism. He knew what it was like to go into a HIV-AIDS clinic and see three people in a bed all dying together and care about it and know it doesn't have to be that way," O'Neill said.

Bono's concern about Africa dates back to 1984 when his rock band U2 participated in concerts to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia. Bono and his wife spent six weeks working in an orphanage in Ethiopia to learn first-hand how bad conditions were.

Since then, he has become a tireless advocate for Africa, first in a lengthy campaign to get the Group of Eight top industrial countries to provide greater debt relief for the world's poorest countries and now as the founder of Debt, Aid, Trade for Africa (DATA).

Bono's campaigning against third world debt has even made real progress in Washington DC, with the U2 frontman gaining the ear of the president. He said recently after meeting with President George W. Bush, when the President announced a boost in the development budget to $US40 billion, an increase of $US10 billion . "I am a pest. I am a stone in the shoe of a lot of people living here in this town, a squeaky wheel."

After the 11th of September attacks, many leaders in the west have acknowledged that tackling poverty and maintaining global security are related.

But even before this, Bono was hard at work for Africa, becoming a favourite with former President Bill Clinton's administration. Since then, he has proven himself just as successful at working in more conservative times.

Earlier this year, he travelled to Africa with Republican Senator and medical surgeon, Bill Frist. Frist has now teamed with Senator Jesse Helms to support a $US500 million program aimed at halting transmission of AIDS from pregnant mothers in Africa to their children.

Also, Sonny Callahan, a Republican expert on aid, has joked Bono has spent so much time in his office lobbying for Africa that the two should be called the "the Sonny and Bono show".

Bono doing his thing.

See also:

Lets not forget the Children in Our World, 5 May 2002