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Last Updated: Friday, 3 June, 2005, 17:23 GMT 18:23 UK
Do Ghanaians care about Live 8?
By Kwaku Sakyi-Addo
BBC News, Accra

Twenty-seven-year old Gladys Nyamekye is a single mother, who is nursing her third child. She makes a living roasting plantains on hot coals under a tin shed in Ghana's capital, Accra, and selling them by the slice.

Gladys Nyamekye, a roast-plantain seller in Accra, Ghana
Plantain seller Gladys Nyamekye has never heard of Geldof

Her daily profit is slightly more than the cliched dollar a day.

"Bob? Which Bob?" was her reply when I asked if she had heard about Bob Geldof, who unveiled plans earlier this week for a Live 8 concert, to highlight the ongoing problem of global poverty.

"I know Bob; isn't he the plumber on the other side across the big gutter?" she asked.

"No, I don't mean that one," I said. "This Bob is Irish. He's a musician."

"Oh, Bob Marley!" a youngish, grease-coated tyre repairer out on lunch break yelled, as if time was running out on the Weakest Link.

"No, Bob Geldof wasn't a Wailer. He was a Boomtown Rat," I said.


Now the customer was lost and Gladys wasn't interested. She tended to a slice of plantain instead, to keep it from burning.

Is there anyone who doesn't know that Africa is poor? Or why Africa is poor? I mean, Hellooo!
Kathleen Boohene
Gender activist

"Bob Geldof is organising a big concert to raise awareness about poverty in Ghana and Africa and other parts of the world," I explained.

"Krakye (gentleman), could you leave me to sell my plantains, please," Gladys said - irritated. "And when you go I greet your Bob."

I sauntered off wondering whether Live 8 would eventually make an impact on Gladys and her children, even if she never learned about "my Bob".


Then there was 38-year-old Kathleen Boohene. She knew about Bob Geldof and Live 8, but wasn't particularly excited about the concert's purpose.

Of course I know Bob Geldof, even if I don't dance to his kind of music
Gyekye Tanoh
Third World Network researcher

"What does he mean he wants to raise awareness about poverty? Is there anyone who doesn't know that Africa is poor? Or why Africa is poor? I mean, Hellooo!"

"So why's Africa poor?" I asked Kathleen.

"Because of the structure and rules of world trade," she replied.

"Just look at the Europeans. They dare to be angry because the Chinese are flooding their markets with cheap textiles; they're afraid it will ruin their industries.

"Isn't that what we've been saying for years about European exports to Africa?"

"Ok, so the Europeans and the Americans know why Africa is poor but..."

"But," she snatched my half-done sentence, "... the politicians just don't have the will to fix it until it affects them, period!"

"So a night of head-banging won't..." I began.

"No," she did it again, "... a night of rock and roll isn't going to change [US President] George Bush's mind! They want zero tariffs on their exports to developing countries. How are we to finance our budgets when 20% of our revenues come from import tariffs?"

Heart of the matter

But there was hopeful Gyekye Tanoh, a researcher at Third World Network, an Accra-based think tank.

Children in a Kenyan shanty town
Live Aid dressed the wounds - this time, Geldof is addressing the source of the sores
Gyekye Tanoh
"Of course I know Bob Geldof, even if I don't dance to his kind of music."

"So what do you think of Live 8?" I asked Gyekye.

"Well, let's look at it this way," he said, "Live 8 should be seen as an act within a bigger play that's part of a series of performances to mobilise people to change the town."

I asked him what difference he saw between Geldof's 1985 Live Aid concerts and the Live 8 event.

"Live Aid appealed to people's emotions and pockets. But Live 8 is not about charity; it's about the fundamental causes of poverty," he explained.

"I think it demonstrates Geldof's own maturity over the 20 years. He's grown from emotional to political.

"Live Aid was like - well, Band-Aid - see what I mean? It dressed the wounds. This time, Geldof is addressing the source of the sores."

Voice of the people

But what does he think of Geldof's call for people to descend on the Scottish capital, Edinburgh, as G8 leaders meet nearby at Gleneagles?

"You see, the politicians have to recognise that the pressure is coming from ordinary people, and not just from a bunch of rock stars," he said.

"And in the context of the 'No' votes in France and the Netherlands against the European Union constitution, the voice of the people is shaking the political structures."

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