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Wednesday, 22 May, 2002, 02:35 GMT 03:35 UK
Bono begins African mission
Bono and President George W Bush
Bono is an active debt-relief campaigner
United States Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and Irish rock star Bono have arrived in Ghana on a four-nation tour aimed at improving the impact of development aid.

The unlikely duo's 12 day fact-finding mission will also take in Uganda, South Africa and Ethiopia.

Bono - from the band U2 - is hoping to show Washington that development aid can work effectively - and that Africa needs more of it.

Correspondents say there is little doubt the trip will influence how a proposed $5bn US aid package is spent.

Fact-finding tour

Bono - an active debt-relief campaigner - persuaded Mr O'Neill to join him on the trip when he addressed politicians and business leaders at the World Economic Forum in February.

The singer may be famous across the world, but the BBC's Kwaku Sakyi-Addo says that most ordinary people in Ghana have never heard of him.

One newspaper even confused him with Sonny Bono, the late American singer and ex-husband of Cher.

But together the rock star and the treasury secretary will visit hospitals, HIV/Aids clinics and schools - as well as meeting the leaders of each country.

Paul O'Neill
O'Neill: Aid sceptic
They hope to investigate conditions on the ground in Africa, to help establish criteria for future US aid dispersal under a new initiative proposed by President George W Bush.

This initiative aims to increase US unilateral development aid by $5bn a year, to an annual $15bn.

The treasury secretary, known for his view that aid to developing nations is often a waste of money, has vowed to listen rather than preach during the tour.

He is not expected to make any specific pledge about spending, but correspondents say that what he sees will influence the way in which Mr Bush's foreign aid package is divided up.

'New approach' needed

Speaking in Washington last week, Mr O'Neill said a new approach to aid was needed.

"Lots of well intentioned things have been attempted over the last 50 years. Some of them have worked. Too many of them have not worked," he said.

Mr O'Neill said Bono would help attract media attention because of his status as an international rock star, but he stressed he did not intend to turn the trip into a "circus".

The bulk of the visit will focus on aid projects, small local ventures and meetings with non-governmental organisations and civic groups.

The visit comes barely a week after President Bush signed a new federal farm law increasing crop and dairy subsidies by 67% - a measure some analysts say makes a mockery of calls for Africa to embrace free trade, and prices the continent out of lucrative markets.

Ghana is the world's second largest cocoa producer and officials complain that stiff tariffs make it hard to export products like chocolate or cocoa butter.

The BBC's David Chazan
"Their views on aid, politics and music could not be further apart"
Brett Schafer, the Heritage Foundation
"His [Bono] reputation certainly brings an audience"
Secretary O'Neill's spokesman, Tony Fratto
"They have in common a passionate interest in improving the lives of people who are living in substandard conditions"
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