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Friday, 4 May, 2001, 19:33 GMT 20:33 UK
African Media Watch
Africa Media Watch
As Irish rock star Bono and US Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill come to the end of their four-nation African tour, we examine how the unlikely partnership has been viewed by the region's media.

Africa in general must hope that the recurrence of the popular U2 hit "I still have not found what I am looking for" on the trip to Ghana, Uganda, South Africa and Ethiopia was simply a random occurrence rather than symbolic of Bono's failure to sell his message of debt forgiveness and more aid.

Ghana's Joy FM said Bono sang the song to schoolchildren in Accra, while Johannesburg's The Sowetan reported that he "soaked in the hospitality of the people of Soweto" while delivering an impromptu performance.

The Odd Couple

That they made an unlikely duo, there was little doubt. South Africa's The Sunday Independent spoke of "a rapport between two most unlikely people, an odd couple if ever there was one".

"They may be an odd couple," The Statesman in Ghana agreed. "What this trip is indicating, however, is the hope that Africa's problems are finally showing, however faintly, in the radar of American foreign policy."

The paper said few Ghanaians had heard of Bono, but the trip had been made possible by his "growing influence at the White House and US conservative circles... Bono has famously converted some crusty old conservatives to his cause. These include the powerful Republican octogenarian, Jesse Helms".

"The question is whether this leader of perhaps the world's greatest pop group would manage to turn minds significantly in Washington. Meanwhile we take our hats off to him as we offer him the legendary Akwaaba! [Akan language welcome].

"Bono, Ghana salutes you."

Education, Education, Education

Both The Statesman and another Ghanaian paper, The Independent, picked up on Mr O'Neill's insistence that the private sector become the engine of growth and development.

The Independent said "lofty" government attempts to develop the private sector had been blocked by bureaucracy, corruption, and often the "sheer laziness" of public servants.

"Ghana cannot afford to let government's declared Golden Age of Business remain a mirage as the private sector has proved to be a quality performer in countries that saw the light a long time ago.

"After the visit of Paul O'Neill and Bono Hewson, the ball is still in our court. We are the only ones who can change our circumstances by assisting the private sector devoid of politicisation of issues and all the other ills that we know about."

An editorial in The Statesman argued that without major investment in education, hopes for the development of the private sector would remain a pipe dream.

"What was also sad about this week's trip was that O'Neill, in not so many words, appeared to be telling our president: Don't look to the West for investors, look within... O'Neill reminded our political leaders that we must start from education."

Echoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair, it trumpeted "Education, Education, Education".

"Ghana as a very, very poor country, has a private sector that is so weak that it cannot even stand on its rickety legs, let alone become the main engine of growth... Even if we pump capital into the private sector... the edifice will surely crumble because it will not be standing on a strong foundation.

"We need to invest in vocational education, we need to invest in research and technology, we need to invest in quality education...Ghana's anti-science fashion must be taken on and beaten. Even if capitalism can't be regulated, knowledge can."

Genuine concerns

The Statesman agreed with The Sowetan that Washington's concern over the misuse of aid was valid.

"On the whole, O'Neill's concerns about the vast amounts of donor money that seem to be ploughed into the wrong causes or are in some way inappropriately managed, are justified and reasonable," said The Sowetan.

"O'Neill, lest we forget," The Statesman said, "is the same man who said back in March that billions had been spent on international aid since the war, with little to show for it. O'Neill had a point."

Living standards were lower now than 30 years ago, although $1,000 billion in aid had been disbursed since 1950, it said.

The issue of trade inequalities was raised by both the Ugandan and Ethiopian leaders during the trip, with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia launching a stinging attack on the West.


Mr Meles said the Western governments "are erecting tariff and non-tariff barriers and doling out enormous subsidies affecting the very products that we have comparative advantage in. This is clearly and blatantly hypocritical."

"But perhaps more importantly, it serves to drastically reduce the global cake for us all," he said, according to the UN regional information network IRIN. "If such trading practices are not changed, nothing our partners can do is going to promote Africa's structural transformation."

President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda called for debt cancellation to go hand in glove with market access.

"To ensure no new debts are created, we must open the markets for these countries to be able to export," he was quoted as saying by Uganda's The New Vision newspaper.

He said protectionism in Europe had kept out African products. "We want more opening because we want the end of protectionism."

The last word goes to The Sowetan: "Irish rock star Bono endeared himself to millions of South Africans who have rolled up their sleeves to engage the challenge of HIV and AIDS."

See also:

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