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Bono heads back to Africa to see progress, needs

Written by: Staff

WASHINGTON, May 12 (Reuters) Irish rocker and activist Bono is taking his crusade for Africa on the road.

U2's lead singer will tour Lesotho, Rwanda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Mali and Ghana on a 10-day trip starting on Tuesday to examine how his successful campaign for debt relief can now help combat poverty and disease, his advocacy group DATA said yesterday.

The tour comes four years after Bono focused the world's attention on Africa's plight when he and then US Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill travelled around the continent to highlight the need for Western governments to increase aid and erase poor countries' debt burdens.

Bono is credited with spearheading the successful campaign to erase the debts of poor countries, with world leaders praising his effort to learn the issues and be a constructive participant in policymaking.

In June the Group of Eight industrialized countries, meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland, agreed to cancel the debts of 18 low-income countries, most of them in Africa, to free up resources to tackle poverty.

The G-8 powers also pledged to double aid to Africa by 2010 to about 47 billion dollars.

Much has changed since Bono's trip with O'Neill in 2002. The continent is enjoying its best growth rates in more than 30 years, due not only to a boom in global commodity prices but also to improvements in government economic policies and fewer conflicts.

HEALTH CARE, EDUCATION However, critics say years of foreign aid has done little to effectively change the lives of many Africans.

Jamie Drummond, executive director of DATA, or Debt AIDS Trade Africa, the advocacy group co-founded by Bono, said the tour will try to gauge if the increased attention on Africa is making a difference for such things as health care and education.

''We're going to look at foreign assistance working on the ground in Africa and see what is working and what is not,'' he told Reuters.

''Effective aid backing good African leadership can get results, so let's do more of it,'' said Drummond, adding, ''Why would you not do more of it?'' In Washington, the US House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, in the early stages of crafting fiscal 2007 bills, has shaved off 2.4 billion dollars from President George W Bush's request for foreign aid as a way to help with tax cuts.

Drummond said such moves will derail the promises made to the world's poor, and Bono's goal is to keep policymakers' attention on Africa.

''The timing of this is extremely important, not just because you can see all the results on the ground, but because at this very moment top policymakers in all of the G-8 countries are looking at whether they can afford to keep their promises -- whether in Germany, Canada, Italy, or France, and above all in the US Congress,'' he said.

Reuters SI GC1000

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