Rock star charity will not eliminate African poverty

Paul Hewson is among the world’s most famous celebrities. Bono – his nickname – may be more familiar to most, but his band U2 and his fundraising for African countries has helped to make him

Paul Hewson is among the world’s most famous celebrities. Bono – his nickname – may be more familiar to most, but his band U2 and his fundraising for African countries has helped to make him a cultural icon that spans continents.

Yet, Dr. Molefi Asante, who has been called one of America’s “100 leading thinkers” by the Utne Reader and has published more scholarly books than any contemporary African author, isn’t quite praising Bono’s humanitarianism.

The Temple African-American studies professor said he has “not seen an impact on the American public” from the awareness-raising efforts of Bono and other entertainers. Bono is not the only celebrity who has been criticized for his actions regarding conditions in Africa.

Live 8 and Live Aid organizer Bob Geldof has been criticized for what Bill O’Reilly called the “reality” of Live Aid.

In a blog entry last June, O’Reilly reported that much of the funds donated for Live Aid in 1985 were used to further equip the personal army of the head of the Ethiopian state. When asked to remark on O’Reilly’s comments, Bono responded that “corruption,” not disease or famine, was the greatest threat to advancement for many African countries.

The purpose of the recent Live 8 concerts was to raise awareness, not money. Debt, AIDS, Trade in Africa – a multinational, non-governmental organization founded by Bono – maintains education, not fundraising, as its primary objective.

Yet, Asante said his foremost objections are beyond the distribution of donations. To Asante, efforts of pop icons give “Westerners the impression that they … retain superiority over Africa.” He and many others say that with persistent messages of a poverty-ridden continent, Africa is pitied. “Pity won’t save lives,” Asante said, but “opening markets for Africa, reducing subsidies of American farmers, allowing African goods to be sold worldwide, would.”

In Malawi on Oct. 16, President Bingu wa Mutharika declared a national disaster as 5 million of the country’s 12 million people will need food supplies before March. In August, the United Nations called for $88 million in aid, but only $28 million has been currently provided.

Asante said aiding African states in becoming self-sufficient could lead to widespread improvements in the quality of life for Africans continent-wide. “Africa,” the professor said, “holds regions that are richer in natural resources than anywhere else in the world.”

To truly bring all African states closer toward self-reliance, current world powers have to make monetary concessions of a magnitude that the world has never known.

There are no statistics or any way to conceive a description for the gains the industrialized world has made on the back of the African continent. A proposal was recently made in Congress to change a law regarding foreign aid to Africa.

Under the proposed plan, the U.S. government would buy food grown in Africa for Africans desperate for food rather than shipping American grown food.

Such a change would not only fight starvation, but also support African farmers while helping stimulate their economy.

Yet in the end, the proposal was rejected by Congress because of the reverse effect some said it would have on American farming. It seems the industrialized world will continue to preach aid without affecting the power it has over Africa and other struggling regions.

During colonialism, European leaders told the world they were doing Africa a favor. It seems to me that G8 leaders consider the increase of $25 billion in aid to Africa to be a favor as well.

Asante said the reality of aiding Africa lies in “reexamining political policy and legal issues.” With the world’s balance of power resting firmly on a dependent Africa, the continent must depend on sympathetic, if not patronizing, rock stars and the enormous potential that the world’s most promising continent holds.

Christopher George Wink can be reached at

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