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Since 1st March, 1999
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‘Sincere’ Bono sings India’s praises

London, June 17: The rock star, Bono, who has teamed up with Bob Geldof to “make poverty history”, last night held up India as the economic model for Africa.

The lead singer of the band U2 said that if the rich G8 countries come together and decide to help Africa, the continent could become an economic power like India in 20 years.

U2 have just started a tour of Britain. After their first concert in Manchester, a reviewer noted: “Well, Bono was Bono. He’s sentimental, pompous, an ego the size of a planet, but when he was holding forth on the need to end global poverty, not for a moment did I doubt his sincerity.”

During a tour of America, Bono has been campaigning to change attitudes on debt relief and poverty by enlisting the support of powerful figures in finance and the media, including Rupert Murdoch, as well as household names from Hollywood.

He will almost certainly offer his view that there has been “amazing progress in India” to the international opinion formers whose opinions he is seeking to influence ' with some success, it would seem.

Bono has co-founded an organisation called Data (Debts, Aids, Trade, Africa) and persuaded Hollywood actor Brad Pitt to travel to Africa on its behalf and make a documentary.

“Brad and Jennifer (Aniston) a year ago put together a dinner for 20 great actors and asked me to speak,” Bono disclosed recently.

“Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz were all there, and they have all followed through. Sean Penn, George Clooney and P. Diddy have all come to me, saying, ‘We see you’re there, we want to help. What can we do'’”

During U2’s American tour, the One campaign, set up to add further pressure on the Bush administration, has gone from 50,000 registrations to a million.

When Manmohan Singh comes as an observer to the G8 summit at Gleneagles, Perthshire, from July 6 to 8, he will find the focus of attention is Africa ' thanks to Bono and Geldof.

In an interview with BBC2 last night, Bono said that future generations would view as “ridiculous” the current assumption that Africa is a hopeless case that can never be helped out of poverty.

Bono has been a strong advocate of the Make Poverty History campaign and has backed Tony Blair’s decision to make assistance for Africa the cornerstone of the G8 summit.

In an interview with BBC2’s Newsnight last night, he acknowledged that no campaign or reform could rid the world entirely of poverty, but said: “You can’t fix every problem, but the ones you can, you must.”

He said: “You need T-shirts, you need slogans. The idea is not to make poverty in the obvious sense history, but extreme poverty, stupid poverty, children dying for lack of food in their bellies in the 21st century. This we can do.”

He went on: “There will be a moment that will come in 20 years, maybe 40 years, when we will look back at what is happening now and it will look ridiculous that we should let such numbers die for no good reason.”

He rejected the notion that money poured into Africa would be wasted because the continent would always remain poor.

“Look at it as start-up investment in countries,” he said. “Trade, in the end, is what is going to sort out the problems, but to get these countries off their knees, they do need to deal with problems like the AIDS emergency and malaria.”

He emphasised: “There is amazing progress being made in India. Look at Second World economies like Malaysia. I think in 20 years, we will see Africa like that. Don’t write off a continent because of some bad leadership.”

“We also need to deal with trade, which is much trickier, because in Europe we have the Common Agricultural Policy which stops the poorest of the poor trading with us, while we flood their markets with our cheap goods,” he said.

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