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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 May 2006, 22:50 GMT 23:50 UK
Bono promotes work to aid Africa
By David Loyn
BBC developing world correspondent

Rock star Bono has a more personal stake in Lesotho than in any other African country. In the remote mountain town of Butha-Buthe his wife Ali Hewson is sourcing t-shirts for a new fair trade line being sold in the US.
The textile factory in Butha-Buthe had faced closure
The textile factory in Butha-Buthe had faced closure

The order has meant that the only major employer in the town, a textile factory, has been saved from closure.

Like many African textile-manufacturing countries Lesotho suffered last year when China was allowed to sell clothing into international markets for the first time without paying high tariffs.

Bono chose to start his six-nation African tour here because he says it is a microcosm for the continent.

The issues he has highlighted - debt, Aids and trade - all affect the country, a landlocked island surrounded by South Africa.

Nakadi Jabbie, the owner of the factory in Butha-Buthe, says ordering the clothes has been much more help than giving aid.

"It is even better than donating because when people work, and they can buy their own food and take themselves to the clinics, then it means they are doing it themselves and they are not just receiving food parcels."

Bono in Africa
Politicians love to sign cheques, but they don't like to cash them. The cashing of cheques is very important to us
Bono
Some of the profits from the factory finance local community initiatives, such as digging a well to provide water in a school nearby.

The bigger policy reasons for this visit are to assess progress on promises made at the G8 summit last year.

Bono is moving onto five other African countries in an effort to keep up momentum in his campaign.

The U2 frontman criticised Canada, and France for not sticking to their commitments, and said that despite new big offers of aid from the Bush White House, he feared that Congress would block the increases.

He said: "We could be in a catastrophic situation come the year anniversary of Live 8 unless something happens quick.

"We don't want to take our foot off the pedal. Politicians love to sign cheques, but they don't like to cash them. The cashing of cheques is very important to us."

The G8 "summit for Africa" went further than many critics had predicted in committing large increases in aid, particularly to fund universal access to primary education, and anti-retro viral drugs for all those testing positive for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

HIV test encouragement

A new scheme, funded by Britain's Department for International Development, to encourage workers in the textile industry in Lesotho to take an HIV test, was launched during Bono's visit.

But so far only a quarter of those eligible in Lesotho do receive the drugs, despite a new agreement to allow generic copies of the drugs to be sourced from other developing countries, slashing the price from US$20,000 (10,600) to just $140 (74) for a course of pills.

In a stark illustration of the difficulties of making the scheme work, one of the leading advocates of the policy of testing all factory workers once a year, Mankopane told me that she cannot even persuade her husband to take a test, although he is very sick.

Bono in textile factory
Bono visited a factory making T-shirts for major labels

The stigma of the disease is taking a long time to eradicate.

Bono met Daniel Fatle, a walking advert for anti-retro viral treatment. A year ago he was so sick that he could hardly move let alone work.

When we met him he was digging the ground to plant crops for his family. His wife is also HIV positive, and they do not yet know if their baby son Moses has inherited the disease.

In one textile factory, Bono saw T-shirts being made for the new Red brand label he has launched.

They are not yet available in the shops, but some big corporate names, such as Gap, Armani and American Express are involved in the scheme.

Profits will go to the Global Fund to provide Aids treatment, while the scheme will also encourage manufacturers to take more responsibility for the health of their workers.

Pessimism

Bono said that he is gloomy about prospects for trade - the T in the name of his aid agency DATA.

The Doha round of talks in the World Trade Organization, designed to help developing countries, has now gone on well beyond its deadline, and could collapse next month.

Bono said that talks to save the round are excluding African nations: "They are not even at the table."

At a press conference the Lesotho Minister of Trade Mpho Malie agreed.

He said that the prospects for a settlement that would help Africa "do not look good".

He criticised the negotiators for trying to persuade Africa to accept new rules allow access for non-agricultural goods before dealing with their biggest concerns in agriculture.


SEE ALSO
Bono bets on Red to battle Aids
26 Jan 06 |  Business
U2 'tension' over Bono campaigns
31 Dec 05 |  Entertainment
Voice of influential U2 frontman
18 Dec 05 |  Entertainment
Bono to edit BBC radio Today show
08 Dec 04 |  Entertainment

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