Bono Voce

ANTI-POVERTY activist and rocker Bono Tuesday said the world's industrial nations are badly off track on their promises of aid to Africa's poor, and he would remind the Group of Eight financial ministers of their commitments at a meeting in Germany this weekend.

In an interview with Reuters, the U2 lead singer said the G8 - the United States, Japan, Canada, Britain, Germany, Italy, Russia and France - faced 'a crisis of credibility' two years after a summit at Gleneagles, Scotland where they committed to deliver more aid, trade, debt relief, and health and education services to Africa's poor.

Bono said the G8 should not be allowed to forget their promises that included doubling aid to Africa by 2010, and he will deliver that message to G8 finance chiefs who are to meet in Potsdam near Berlin Saturday.

A new report compiled by his advocacy group DATA, or Debt, Aids, Trade, Africa, shows that the G8 is way off target on aid to Africa, having increased aid by $2.3 billion since 2004, when the Gleneagles commitment showed it should have risen by $5.4 billion. The report noted that there was clear evidence that well-targeted aid works.

'It's a trend at this point but we have made such a fuss about it and now they know that the world is interested in the minutia of how these promises are being kept,' Bono said by phone, as he left Berlin for Brussels with the report that outlines progress and failures of the G8 member.

'I think they will pull the nose of the airplane up,' he added.

The DATA report also criticized the G8 for its failure to agree on a trade deal under the Doha Round that would cut expensive agricultural subsidies of European and U.S. farmers, which is punishing poor farmers in Africa.

DATA, however, applauded an agreement last year to cancel the debts of poor countries and modest increases in funding for health and education.

Bono has used his celebrity to campaign for funding for Africa and debt cancellation, travelling to the continent several times and lobbying the world's powerful nations to help fight poverty.

Progress fighting disease

Bono said U.S. efforts to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS and prevent malaria were 'impressive.' Overall, the G8 had increased funding for life-saving drug therapy for HIV/AIDS, while there has also been progress in tackling malaria and polio.

'Don't you think Americans could do with a bit of good news?' Bono said of the United States' image abroad that has been tainted by an unpopular war in Iraq.

Bono said France's president-elect Nicolas Sarkozy had invited him for a meeting, and he planned to press him on the need for France to increase its efforts in Africa.

'The other side of him talking tough at home, is he has to, and I have heard wants to, make sure that France's tradition in the wider world is one of involvement,' Bono said.

The rocker said Africa's rapid economic growth of over 5 per cent in some countries should not be an excuse to slow aid to their poorest citizens.

'I think the growth rates are no reason to roll down interest, rather, you want to gather around success,' Bono said. 'Remember, if we don't in Europe or in America, the Chinese will and they are not asking such hard questions of the relationship as we are.'

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