Rich nations falter on Africa – Bono

By Lesley Wroughton

WASHINGTON – The world’s richest countries are falling short on pledges made last year to provide Africa with life-saving AIDS drugs, expanded trade and increased aid, said rocker-activist Bono.

Bono and fellow Irish

rocker Bob Geldof have used their fame to fuel a campaign for Africa, organizing concerts last year to press leaders of rich countries at a meeting in Scotland to wipe out poverty.

“They started out to climb an Everest but over the past year they got lost at base camp,” Bono told Reuters in an interview after the release of a report by his lobby group Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa group, or DATA.

“I’d like to think that the DATA report is a kind of a GPS system for how to get back on track and back up the mountain,” said Bono, who formed DATA with Geldof.

The report said wealthy countries had delivered on their promise to cancel the debts of 19 poor countries, most of them in Africa, with 44 countries eligible under World Bank and International Monetary Fund programs.

“Overall, there is one cheer on debt, half a cheer on AIDS and boos and wolf-whistles for what is happening on trade,” Bono said.

The report said relief from burdensome debt payments in Cameroon, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia has already swelled spending on education, health and AIDS.

In London, Geldof said politicians needed to be kept accountable, pointing to the DATA report.

“Here’s the evidence, here’s the empirical proof, here’s the political arm, do this thing. We’re really serious,” he told Reuters. “You’ve got us wrong if you think we’re going away. We ain’t going away.”

MORE NEEDED TO FIGHT AIDS

The report said much more was needed to provide access to drug therapy to fight HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Globally, AIDS funding has grown to $8.3 billion in 2005 from $300 million in the late 1990’s. In Africa, the number of people being treated rose to 800,000 last year from 100,000 in 2003.

DATA said, however, that donors were spending half of what was needed to meet the goal of getting AIDS treatment to at least four million Africans by 2010.

The report commended the United States for leadership on AIDS programs in Africa, and Britain and France for their contributions to a Geneva-based global fund for AIDS.

Canada, Italy, Japan and Germany were laggards, it said.

“Breaking your promise is always bad but breaking a promise to people whose life depends on it is unforgivable,” said Bono, who recently traveled to Africa.

The report castigated the G8 for failure to reach a trade deal that would open markets for African products.

As trade negotiators haggled over details of farm products, which Africa wants to export, in talks in Geneva on Thursday, DATA said wealthy countries lacked ambition and urgency.

“It’s like they’re playing a macho game,” said Bono, who argues that farm subsidies and other trade barriers in the large U.S. and European markets hurt African producers.

“We have to do better in communicating that French or American small farmers are not the problem here and that these giant subsidies are in general for big corporations,” he said.

The DATA report said the G8 was collectively off target in 2005 on their promises to double aid to Africa by $50 billion by 2010. Only France was on track for its 2010 goal, the report said.

To keep its aid promises, the report said wealthy countries should have increased aid by $3.6 billion last year, but spent $1.6 billion.

Bono urged more progress by the next summit.

“Next year when we get to Germany and we’re not back on track we won’t be talking pop concerts … we will be demonstrating in very different ways,” he said. — Reuter