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Dec23
Can Rock and Roll Feed the Poor?
I wanted to add a few more thoughts about Bono being named person of the year with Bill Gates and his wife Melinda.

A pet peeve of mine is the celebrity that uses his or her performance platform to promote a cause. This is most often not leadership but rather a celebrity trying to find more celebrity with a new audience.  Too often a performer's message is more about tearing someone or someone’s ideology down rather than building bridges or offering solutions. This approach only verifies a celebrities inability to lead or cause change. Yet, because they are popular for reasons completely unrelated to their cause, they assume we may want to listen. It leaves most of us feeling ripped off and exploited.

Bono has not taken this approach. I have been to several U2 concerts. He does promote his cause but it is all positive. Rather than demean or criticize or point a finger of blame, he calls for a solution.bono wef.jpg He calls for positive action and change. And I don’t seem to mind when he talks about the good that people have done and the potential to do more.

There was some criticism and skeptical commentary about the causes that Bono and Gates were engaged in. Most of this criticism was not directed at them but at a system that doesn’t work. Namely, corrupt African dictators that enrich themselves and further poverty by terror and military force.

From Paul Theroux in a New York Times Op Ed and quoted on Fausta’s Blog

“But we are more appalled by most of the proposed solutions. I am not speaking of humanitarian aid, disaster relief, AIDS education or affordable drugs. Nor am I speaking of small-scale, closely watched efforts like the Malawi Children's Village. I am speaking of the "more money" platform: the notion that what Africa needs is more prestige projects, volunteer labor and debt relief. We should know better by now. I would not send private money to a charity, or foreign aid to a government, unless every dollar was accounted for - and this never happens. Dumping more money in the same old way is not only wasteful, but stupid and harmful”

I would agree with Paul that “dumping more money in the same old way: makes no sense.”  However, I think Bono and Gates understand the issues raised by Theroux.  I can't agree that what  they are doing is a prestige project.  There are legitimate efforts that bring more than money to the world’s poorest. Gates And Bono understand these initiatives – microfinance being one of the most promising and one that was mentioned at the 2005 World Economic Forum where Gates and Bono participated.

Time magazine two years before naming Gates and Bono as people of the year wrote of microfinance:

“Over the past three decades, the practice of lending as little as $50 to poor, self-employed individuals, the vast majority of them women, has proved its sustainability through near perfect repayment rates. Plus, the short-term loans turn over several times a year, lifting tortilla makers in Mexico and basket weavers in Benin out of poverty along the way. With 3 billion people living on less than $2 a day, there's a huge market for this kind of seed capital.”

Organizations like Unitus, are using microfinance to unlock entrepreneurial potential and to introduce principles of self-reliance, free markets and women’s rights that can bring stability to the world’s poorest.  This is not the "same old way." It is not a handout and it does not involve corrupt government leaders.  Fishkite offers a interesting views on Africa and the numbers.

I have to believe that Bono knows the cause in which he is so passionately engaged is more that a prestige project for a rock start and a nerd.   In U2's song God Part II,  Bono declares

“Don’t believe in rock ‘n roll can really change the world as it spins in revolution, spirals and turns - I, I believe in love.”

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