Posted by: APO | 19 June 2008

Bono and Bob Geldof / Interview on France 24

Bono and Bob Geldof / Interview on France 24

PARIS, France, June 19, 2008/African Press Organization (APO)/ –Bono and Bob Geldof / Interview on France 24

Recorded on June 18th – PAris

Broadcast: Friday 20th June 2008 – 7.10 PM (Paris Time)



Ulysse Gosset – Welcome to FRANCE 24 for this new edition of The Talk de Paris. We all want to curb hunger and eradicate poverty in Africa. But are we doing enough about it? Answering this question today is a rock star: Paul David Hewson, better known the world over as Bono. Youths and Heads of State look up to him. Bonjour, Bono.

Bono – Bonjour. Merci.

People are saying that we should be more generous with Africa – again. But where is all that aid going? Is it being used properly – in Africa and elsewhere? Can you name one country where European aid, for example, is being handed out and used properly and sensibly?

Well, you know, France is a creature of aid. Germany is a creature of aid. The Marshall Plan helped to rebuild Europe after the War. Ireland, the country I come from – and where I came from last night – is also a creature of EU aid. Ireland was a very, very poor place (even 20 or 25 years ago). Now, it has, I think, the second-highest mean average wage in the world. So aid can work. You need to invest in education. You need to invest in infrastructure. Africa is our next-door neighbour. As Ireland was. Africa is only eight miles from Europe. We should remember this.


We will obviously be getting back to Africa and to the impending G8 meeting. But, as you are one of them, I wanted to ask you whether you were surprised by the fact that a sizeable majority of Ireland’s people voted against the Lisbon Treaty. Did you vote?

Yes, I voted. I voted yes. It was a difficult manuscript and it wasn’t very well explained at home. I think three things happened. The extreme left spread stories about what might happen and the extreme right spread stories about what might happen (and created a sort of unusual alliance in the No camp). But I think the third reason is perhaps more interesting: people don’t get Europe right now. Not just in Ireland but throughout Europe. Europe is a concept. It’s an idea. It has yet to become a feeling. And I think that, unless people feel Europe, feel what Europe is about, it will be hard for them to get excited about it (even though they have benefited so much from it, as Ireland has).

Thinking about what to do with the continent of Africa, our next-door-neighbour continent, I think, actually focuses people on European values, on what they are, on whether we have any at all, and on whether they include making promises to the poorest of the poor and then not keeping them. Do these values include photo opportunities with all the great and the good and then not fulfilling obligations? It’s one thing to break promises to yourself or to your electorate. It is entirely different to break promises when people’s lives depend on them. I think that is a failure on Europe’s part. And a failure on the part of our values if we have them in Europe.


Do you feel Europe might be bankrupt? A diminutive country is holding 500,000,000 people to ransom…

You know, it’s not up to me to comment on European unity. At this point in time, I don’t think Ireland wishes to hold back Europe’s progress. I genuinely think the Irish people were not sure about the implications, and that that is why they vote no. They are not spiritually opposed. In fact they are very encouraging of the concept of Europe.

But I’ll say one thing about Ireland: Ireland is keeping its promises and its commitments to the poorest of the poor. Ireland ranks sixth on the list of the top twenty countries in terms of per-capita commitments to the poorest of the poor. I am very proud of that. And I think it’s interesting that Africa and Ireland have this relationship. Perhaps it’s because Ireland was under the hoof of the colonial jackboot in its own day. Because Ireland itself experienced famine in the middle of the 19th century. We lost half our population to what is known as the Potato Famine. People put it down to, “What a shame, they were dependent on a single crop.” But, in fact, 2,000,000 people died in the middle of the 19th century not because potatoes ran out but because of bad management. At that time, Britain was using Ireland as its breadbasket. We were exporting cows, sheep and the like. And it’s the same in Africa. There’s a sort of fog surrounding this issue. People say there’s corruption in Africa. Yes there is. It’s a big problem. They also say these are situations we don’t know what to do about. If you go into the Famine Museum in Ireland, you will see the same excuses posted on the walls, and in the day’s media.


One last question about Ireland: do you think talks and another referendum to see whether Ireland can join Europe and adopt the Treaty are the way to go now?

I’m not the person you should be asking that question to. Yes, maybe.


Yes what? Another referendum?

[Laughs] I’m the guy that talks about Africa…


[Laughs] But Europe sends aid to Africa. If Europe stops working, it will hurt Africa. That’s the problem. That’s the issue here.

That’s a very serious problem. Because, if European aid follows the French model, which has recently fallen into decline. It will be very bad news for Europe and very bad news for Africa. I accept that. President Sarkozy is Brussels for an EU Summit (and he will be holding the EU Presidency starting in July). Over the next few weeks, the French will decide whether these issues are a priority for them or not. And, if France falls away, others will use that as an excuse. We have the UK, we have the US, and we have Germany. We hope we have France. I have high hopes for President Sarkozy. I like him very much. But we have to see the actions matching the words.


I will be asking you exactly what you expect from Europe and from President Sarkozy but this show’s tradition involves a flashback across your your life and career starting as U2’s front man. Two France 24 journalists – [inaudible] – prepared this profile.




Do you see yourself as a rock star or rather as an ambassador against poverty today? Who is Bono today?

Music is what I’m about. And our music in U2 has always been about what’s going on outside the rehearsal room, what’s going on outside in the real world, not just in our rock-star lives. My inspirations were people like The Clash, Bob Marley and Bob Dylan. We believe that the world is more malleable than people think. We believe you can kick it and bend it into shape. Things do not have to be the way they are. That’s right at the core of our music. Music was like an alarm clock for me. It woke me up, as a teenager, to what was going on in the world. It educated me. It’s been my university. It’s been my Art School. That’s who I am.


Are you still a rebel?

Oh, yes!


You have been knighted and awarded the Légion d’Honneur, but you’re still a rebel…

Oh, yes. Choose your enemies carefully, because they will define you. Make them interesting because they are going to live with you for a long time. U2 always chose interesting enemies. Not the obvious. We weren’t the rock group throwing the television out the window. We aren’t here to take a piss on the street. We have interesting enemies. Our enemies are things like our own indifference. That’s my enemy. I’m rebelling against my own indifference. I’m rebelling against my own hypocrisy. When you’re a kid, you think it’s us and them. You know, you’re throwing stones at the enemy. It’s much more glamorous to be on the barricades, for me, with a handkerchief and a Molotov cocktail. But I have got more done by engaging in conversations, by making rational arguments, by organising, by doing all the dull, boring stuff. It’s not enough to imagine. That’s what you guys did in the 60s: you sat around and imagine. We’re about building the bricks for progress and for peace.


The G8 that breaks its promises – as indeed has France, as indeed has Germany – will be meeting in Japan in a few weeks’ time. What would you like to say to the world’s richest countries?

Germany, actually, despite its difficulties, is on an incline. It increased aid by €760 million last year. We have heard that this year’s budget will be similar. So Germany is doing the right thing. Despite the fact that reunification has cost them 4% of their GDP every year.


So congratulations Angela Merkel…

Angela Merkel has done the right thing. And she is there now with Brown. Bush made a more modest proposal but he’s keeping it. We need the French leadership. The African continent looks to France. They love the French way. They want the French way. The French must not walk away.


So, what do I want? I believe that, if the French people stand up, at this difficult time (with recession, oil prices and so on), and say, “We are talking about French aid totalling 0.16% of a US$ 2 trillion economy this year, and we made a commitment to go to 5…” Your ODA is at 0.4 now. It’s actually one notch up. It’s about US$ 1 billion in extra aid. That is what we would need in the next year or so. And we think the French people are behind that. That’s our view. If they make their voice known.


But what do you say to the G8?

I would say that there is a lot at stake. The whole political process… Are these just talking shops? Is this a joke? That you can stand in a photograph, with your arms around other statesmen, and say, “Yes, we make a promise to the world’s poor that we will increase aid to Africa over the next five years by 25 billion,” and then walk away and it’s not there? Jacques Chirac signed his own name. Tony Blair signed his own name. Those pledges became contracts at that moment. It’s not just some communiqué. There’s a lot at stake in this stuff. And it’s not just the moral stuff. What I like about President Sarkozy is that he’s not motivated by guilt. Forget the past. He’s about the present and the future. He realises that we need Africa as a trading partner.


Yes, but France pushed back its pledge from 2012 to 2015. So we’re going to be late, too.

It’s hard. But we can live with him moving the goalposts from 2012 to 2015. As long as he puts the ball in the back of the net (in terms of French commitments). We really can. That’s fewer people going to school. But they’ll eventually get to school.


The last question, because I know you have a plane to catch and get back to recording your new album. The US could well have a black president soon. Do you think his Kenyan extraction might make a difference – in the US and in Africa? And, while we’re at it, will he win?

I like Barack very much. Senator Obama is someone with whom we have worked very well over the last few years. I know him quite well. He has signed up to an increase in aid. He has signed up to a commitment to defeat the AIDS emergency. You know, it just takes two pills a day and people stop dying. You can get those pills from any corner chemist here. So he will support the Global Fund, as France does. I think he will do a great job for us. But one of the reasons he will is because there’s a growing movement of people in America who are saying that this is important to them, people who want the US to be seen as a benign presence in the world, not just as a military presence in the world. There are campaigners out there. One starts his campaign in France here today (and you can sign up with And, wherever Barack Obama goes, there are people asking him questions about Africa. Wherever John McCain goes there are people asking questions about Africa too. When there were ten candidates, they were all being hounded by one campaigner. This is real politics. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the National Rifle Association…


Yes, of course.

It’s a very dangerous thing in the US. They are the people who make sure it’s OK to be able to buy a gun in America. We don’t think it’s OK. But they’re very organised. We want to give for the world’s poor. We want to be the NRA for the world’s poor. We want to be very organised. When people get behind us we support them, and when people are against us…


So Obama in the White House would be good news for the world and for Africa?

I think it will be very good news for the world. But I hasten to add that John McCain is a supporter of our ideas too.


So who would you vote for?

Once I put on my One T-shirt, I gave up my right to be from the Left or from the Right. This is the one thing both can agree on. So I’m basically an unusual Irish rock star (because we never shut up) but I will remain mute about who I would vote for were I American.


Bono, thank you very much for being here on The Talk of Paris. The France 24 News now, and we will be back with you, Bob Geldof and Yannick Noah right after that. Stay with us.

Thank you






Ulysse Gosset – Welcome back to The Talk de Paris. Joining us now is Bob Geldof, a friend of, and a singer like, Bono. They have founded DATA, an association working to fight poverty in Africa, together. Bob Geldof is a musician (and still playing at concerts around Europe) and an entrepreneur (he owns TV channels and magazines). Bob Geldof, bonjour


Bob Geldof – Bonjour.


My first question today is what is at stake with a few weeks to go for the G8 meeting in Japan? Do you feel the world is not keeping its promises to help Africa now that food prices are soaring around the planet – and especially in Africa? So is your top goal today to remind us that we have to do something about it?

I think it’s a question of credibility. In 2005, the wealthiest economies promised to double aid for Africa to US$ 50 billion by 2010. Remember that Europe, the wealthiest continent in the planet, is 12 km from the poorest continent in the planet. But, each year, Europe – again, the wealthiest continent – receives more aid than Africa – again, the poorest continent. US$ 50 billion is a small sum. The G8, the leaders of the wealthiest economies, have so far only delivered 14% of their promise.

We are all very sceptical about political promises. In fact, there is a great disconnection, I think, between populations and the political class today. Not just throughout Europe but on a national level as well. The same is happening in the G8. But the powerful breaking their promise to the weak is the worst possible thing they can do. If I’m a parent and I tell my kids I’ll take them to the movies on Saturday and, when Saturday comes around, tell them I’ll take them next week, you can see cynicism creep into a child’s eyes. If I’m a businessman and I break my contract with you, you’ll sue me. You’ll go to court. So why do politicians think that they can betray the poor – in our name? You don’t sign the name Jacques Chirac. You don’t sign in the name of your party. You don’t even sign in the name of your government. You sign in the name of the French people. I don’t understand this about political leaders. Why do they find it so easy to lie? To break their promise? Especially to the poor.

I will be in Tokyo, again, and I will be urging them to complete their promise. It’s an important year for France: you will be taking over the EU Presidency. You are looking at your budget for the next three years. So there is a moment here for President Sarkozy to take world leadership. And, because the world is suffering an economic crisis, put it in context. China and India are investing billions of dollars in Africa. The US private sector is investing billions of dollars in Africa. Their political influence, as a result, is huge. Where’s Europe? What are we doing? Our rhetoric is the rhetoric of the middle of the 20th century. We don’t seem to be able to negotiate with this continent and close neighbour. Forever we will be joined to Africa. French people are worried about immigration. They are worried about globalisation. It’s happening in Africa. If you want to prevent immigration, build up a society, build a State, and people won’t want to move. If you want to invest in 900 million producers and consumers – as China, India and America are doing – go to Africa. We’re not doing that.


But Europeans have given a lot of money over the past decades, but can’t help noticing that Africa is as poor as it always has been. What do you say when people ask you where all that aid has gone? Where did all the money from Live Aid go? Can you say it was used properly and sensibly? Did it get lost? Did it get pilfered? What can you say to reassure people?

The aid is very effective. Aid really works. Despite the sceptics. One of the great triumphs of France, indeed, is the invention of the Global Fund for AIDS. This is an empirical structure. I could take a euro from a French citizen and show you the trail from France right down to a person getting AIDS drugs for the first time. In 2002, only 50,000 people in Africa were getting AIDS drugs. And they had to pay for them. This year, a stable 2 million people receive AIDS drugs every year. And we can exactly see the money trail and the result.

It’s the same with education. There’s the Fast-Track Education Initiative. You can trace each dollar, euro, pound or yen from its source down to a school room in Africa. And, as a result of 1 million French people signing the petition – amongst others in the world – in the year 2000, because of Live 8 in Paris – where half a million children were on the street – 29 million children in Africa have gone to school thanks to debt cancellation. 29 million. That’s half the population of France.


Sure, but other figures show that several tens of billions of aid have evaporated, or ended up in African dictators’ pockets. Do you have a way of keeping tabs on what African governments do with that money?

During the Cold War, you are absolutely right. We spent our money helping our pet tyrants. We supported Mobutu, for example, in Zaire, and the Soviets supported Mengistu in Ethiopia. Because we couldn’t fight the Cold War. It was too expensive for us to fight. We’d lose too much. And the Soviets couldn’t fight it because they had no money. So we fought a Hot War in Latin America and Africa, and we paid for, as I say, our favourite tyrants. As soon as the Cold War was over, in 1989, we suddenly got rid of Mobutu, the Soviets got rid of Mengistu, and we could talk politics and economics. Before that, we could only really deal with charity. Now, we can deal with the underlying structure of poverty. Which is politics and economics. Now there’s a new compact. But the G8 is still talking in old Cold-War terms.

We periodically hear talk about Africa rising from its slumber, and about the emerging middle class that might lead Africa to a brighter future. Do you think things are actually happening in Africa, that our negative image of it is overshadowing the fact that things are actually changing?

Absolutely. In Sub-Saharan Africa, there are 23 more or less democratic States. And this continent is growing 6.2% annually. Compare that to European growth. Granted, it’s from a very low base. The countries where there is oil, cobalt, zinc, platinum, etc. are of course growing at a staggering pace. But even the landlocked countries, even countries that have no extractive industries, are growing 5% or possibly a little more. In the more democratic countries, you see 10% to 12% growth. And you’ll see the basic beginning of a middle class and specific structures. You’ll also see the amount of investment from China (which needs Africa’s resources), and the matching investment from the private sector in America. Now there’s a danger. Because, with Chinese mercantilism, you get an American response that is essentially militaristic. But, again, what’s Europe’s position? We had a tragic European-Union African-Union Summit in Lisbon. It was ridiculous. The Chinese now have a game to play. They can go to the Chinese, they can go to the Americans, but they come to the European Union and we lecture them. We need to engage with Africa because all our resources, our energy, will come from Africa. We need to engage with Africa because it will be our export market. As investment comes into the continent – as it is doing for the first time in centuries – the economy will grow.

I know people will laugh and think it’s ridiculous. But Africa will be an economic giant by 2040. Because it has to be. China will be overdeveloped and India will be very developed, leaving only one place that still has the resources and the capacity for growth.


Assuming there is no ethnic strife in Kenya, assuming Zimbabwe restores democracy, assuming South Africa develops properly… There are many problems that need sorting out still…

Absolutely. But what you are seeing is the murderous process of nation building. I hate relativism. But building nations is a bloody business. Look at Europe: we fought each other for 500 years. Constantly. Murderously. The 30 Years War, the 100 Years War, the First World War, the Franco-Prussian War, the Second World War… Until we realised that cooperation, and not competition, was the paradigm we needed for development. So the great triumph of Europe was that we understood 50 years ago that it made more sense to develop together. That’s the EU. And the great European civil war ended in 1989. The Africans have had 40 years to create their new States. And what you are seeing is rivalries play out. It’s disgusting for us to witness, especially on our televisions in our living rooms every night. It is a process. And, in the 21st century, we should be able to ameliorate that process. We should be able to negotiate without killing each other. But those things will be overcome. Developments helps to overcome.

I have two questions about China. We have heard that China is in Africa to siphon its natural resources dry. Is there a chance it will end up pillaging Africa?

That’s a good question. Because of communications and media, in the 19th century, we all pillaged Africa. The French, the English, the Germans… We did that. We don’t want to see a repeat of that. But I think that, in the first instance, the Chinese just came with a chequebook and said, “How much do you want for the platinum? ” and “How much do you want for the zinc?” They then gradually realised that normal international business standards would give them a better advantage. They didn’t come with a political agenda. They don’t want to be involved. But they have invested so massively that they are involved. They are engaged, politically.


I’ll give you an example. In Zambia, they refused to recognise the unions. So the workers went on strike. The opposition parties made a political noise. Two guards were shot. Within two weeks, there was international uproar. Within two weeks, the Chinese had recognised the unions and production has resumed. So I think – and this is true of China in general around the world – they understand, and they are learning very quickly, that engaging multilaterally is better than just pretending that they are isolated and on their own. I don’t think that a repeat of colonialism can happen. I don’t think so. I hope not.


My other question about China is whether you personally think it is a good idea to boycott the Olympic Games or at least the opening ceremony in Beijing in a few weeks’ time to defend the Tibetan cause. Or does it make more sense to be in Beijing to talk to Chinese and Tibetan authorities?

I’m not big on gesture politics. I do Rock and Roll, and Rock and Roll has a function in articulating and in making gestures, politically. With regard to Africa, Bono and I decided to engage in the instruments of change. And the instruments of power are politicians. They are the avatars of change. So you must engage. Those politicians, I think, have to make gestures of disapproval. And Chinese behaviour in Tibet is ridiculous. It is unbecoming of a power of the size of China. And there is no need for it. We dislike it. They don’t accept our view on rights. They will tell you, “We don’t accept that: we have a different way of thinking.” We insist on our version of rights. That’s an argument to have. But I think politicians who do have these values of democracy and human rights have to make a gesture. So it’s a fine judgement. Were I a world leader, I don’t think I’d attend the opening. But it seems silly, doesn’t it? But I would definitely negotiate with the Chinese. I would always talk with them. I would always try and do business with them. And I would make it clear that I believe in these things and that my electorate believes in them, but that we can talk about it.


Getting back to Europe and the French Presidency, how do you feel about Ireland’s referendum? Was it a catastrophe for Europe, of was it just a reflection of the Irish people’s legitimate concern over what Europe might have in store for them?

I think it would be a catastrophe if the leaders just ignored it and pretended nothing had happened. It’s not just Ireland. The French voted against the exact same structure. They just changed the name from Constitution to Treaty. The Dutch voted no. And the Irish were the only people allowed to vote. We don’t know what would happen if the other 26 were allowed to vote, but a good proportion of people would say no. Not to any national agenda. But because there is this belief that there is this democratic deficit. That Europe is a project of the political class. That there is a disconnection between what happens in Brussels and what people in Paris feel. What people in Dublin feel. And they don’t want to be told, in impenetrable language, what to do, say or think. And when Ireland’s political class – all the parties – all the churches, and all the unions say, “Vote yes”, being Irish, you say “No.” So for the elite to say, “Fine, we respect that, but it makes no difference,” is a catastrophic mistake. Individual items on the agenda – a President, a Foreign Minister, etc. – are no problem. But structures that limit our Parliament’s ability to change laws emanating from Brussels are a problem. Sarkozy has the mandate to address this in a coherent, intellectual way. The people of Europe are not stupid. They clearly see the benefits. They just want the voice that they fought for for so long.


So there are high expectations surrounding the French Presidency beyond Ireland and indeed across Europe…

Yes. But I’m not trying to bring the conversation back to this DATA report that Bono and I are announcing. But here is a promise – a solemn promise – of very little money – to the poorest people of the world – that in five years we will go to help them with a certain amount. Then politicians just deliver 14% of that. Of course there’s scepticism. This is a great political project. It’s worth thinking about. It’s worth addressing the people of Europe and bringing them with us on the way. For Sarkozy it’s a fantastic opportunity to go to the Heads of State meeting in Europe, to go to the G8, to address the position of Africa, to deal with the Mediterranean Union concept. It’s a great moment for France to take leadership now. Stop being afraid of globalisation. Stop being afraid of these issues. The world is going through an economic moment. But remember that we are the most successful continent ever seen. We are the healthiest and we are the wealthiest. We don’t feel it. But it’s true. And we should now take a leadership role. So it’s up to France, really, to lead us.


Thank you, Bob Geldof, for being here on this exceptional Talk of Paris as the countdown to the G8 and to France’s Presidency of the European Union ticks on. We hope to see you back here soon. We will be back next week with another Talk of Paris.

Merci beaucoup.


SOURCE : France 24



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