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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 July 2006, 22:40 GMT 23:40 UK
Bob Geldof answers your questions
Bob Geldof
Bob Geldof has been at the centre of the push to boost aid to Africa

As the leaders of rich G8 countries prepare to meet in St Petersburg, Bob Geldof answers questions from BBC News website readers about the promises made at last year's summit in Scotland to boost aid and cut debt in Africa.

The outspoken campaigner and musician argues that aid to Africa works, rails against the corruption that fuels poverty and defends the quality of the music at the Live Aid and Live 8 concerts.


Mario Benefede, Rome, Italy: Does Bob think that the acts of charity by the G8 and West are just a marketing ploy to keep Africans and the Third World in general pacified and prevent them from actually taking any meaningful action by themselves for a fairer share of the worlds resources?

The condition of poverty requires us to change our debt, aid and trade policies and Africans to deal with issues of governance as above. One without the other doesn't work. It requires both of us to take meaningful action. Having said that, how does one pacify a continent? Don't let your intellectual incoherence get in the way of action.

Emily, Huddersfield, UK: I've just returned from Tanzania where I've been working with an NGO. Whilst I saw so much good being done with aid money, I also witnessed much of it going to corrupt government officials. Since much of the increased aid is likely to be channelled via governments, I'd like to know exactly what is being done to make sure the money ends up in the right place?

Corruption is a major problem and it is up to everyone to sort it out. During the cold war we gave aid to corrupt dictators simply to keep them on 'our' side, as did the Commies for 'their' side. Now we should only give aid to governments that are committed to being accountable and transparent, primarily to their own people, and withdraw it when it is misused.

The best way to get politicians to take action is to make a lot of noise - they heard us
Bob Geldof

Bad governance and corruption are a symptom of poverty. We have corruption in the developed countries too but here it doesn't kill people - in Africa it does. One of the key recommendations of the Commission for Africa was that African countries need to build up their governance infrastructure, they need the capacity to implement the checks and balances that we take for granted. Another factor is to pay these civil servants properly. If a police officer doesn't earn enough to feed his or her family there are consequences...

Adrian, London, UK: I would ask Mr Geldof why he does not focus more on the arms trade. Many western companies benefit from the trade in small arms and this trade leads to many deaths in Africa; it diverts funds and leads to instability which hinders long-term prosperity.

Correct.

The arms trade, however, is only part of the mess and not only western countries are at it. Currently the Chinese are building an arms factory outside Khartoum. When Africa is healthy and wealthy they'll still be buying guns. Like us.

Ed, Minneapolis, US: How much of Bob's own money does he give to Africa? Unless he contributes at least the same percentage of his own income to Africa that he is telling the G8 nations to gift to Africa, then he has no leg to stand on whatsoever.

Shanty town in Sierra Leone
Millions of people across Africa are living in abject poverty

It's a stupid question. But I will hold my contempt for the shallowness of your understanding. 0.7% of my total value, unfortunately, would be laughable. The accumulative effort of the two wealthiest individuals in the world, Gates and Buffet, is still less than one year's aid needed by Africa.

Individual charity is essential, one human to another reaching over the impenetrable roar of political discourse to assist another in pain. Not to do this would kill us spiritually, but it will not deal with the structures of poverty that allow that pain to exist. Concerted, coherent, durable and massive political action can do that.

I not only have two legs to stand upon - those legs are standing in turn on the shoulders of millions of others who share that view and allow some of us to shout louder.

Steve, New York, US: Is Bob disappointed that, over 20 years on, Live Aid isn't viewed with the same reverence as Woodstock? Or is this just the inevitable result of the respective performances (the mid-80s weren't exactly a highpoint in rock and roll history)?

Never thought about it. I think what you say is probably true in the US. But in Europe more people probably know Live Aid. Maybe because it is taught at school or because, like Woodstock, it was the expression of a generational moment for us. Live 8 was the expression of a political one. The music was great at all of them.

Jeff, Lincoln, UK: What is the best way to overcome the apathy shown by people on these problems? Ear-bashing often has a counterproductive effect.

I think people respond well to the facts. The fact that a few miles away from Europe there is a continent where the majority of the population go to bed hungry every night should resonate with all of us.

It is in our interests too to look after our neighbours. I find that the best strategy is to make the public aware of the situation and what needs to be, and can be, done about it. Sometimes the politicians need a bit of an ear-bashing to help them on their way to these solutions (but if the voters told the politicians to sort it out I could pipe down a bit - it is in your power to shut me up!).

Richard Allen, Dubai, UAE: I would like to ask Bob Geldof what can be done to publicly name and shame those countries that do not put their money where their mouths are?

Woman at a water pump
Aid projects are helping many of Africa's poorest

It is a terrible thing to know what is happening, know what needs to be done and know that it has not being done; and yet every country pretends that it is doing a lot. They are not. But the little they do can begin to be monitored.

A report has just been published by DATA (Debt Aids Trade Africa), the lobbying and campaigning group I work with. This is an annual progress report on whether the G8 are keeping their promises and what steps they need to take to get on track to do so. Myself, Bono and other campaigners have done a lot of work to get this covered as widely as possible in the press. We name names in national newspapers and on TV stations throughout the G8 to let the people know what their leaders are doing with regard to keeping their word.

The Africa Progress Panel, comprising UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Nigerian President Obasanjo and Transparency International founder Peter Eigen among others, has been set up to also keep track and report on G8 progress on the Gleneagles commitments.

We are privileged that we get covered in the media, but people shouldn't underestimate their own power. Writing to your politicians, sending a letter or email to your MP - if you have one - is an incredibly effective way of making your voice heard and having an impact on the choices that politicians make.

James MacRae, Ipswich, UK: Does Sir Bob feels now that he should have charged for Live 8 tickets and - as with the original Live Aid - sought donations during and beyond the day?

No.

We need finally to move from charity (Band aid, Live Aid) to political and economic justice. Charity deals with the pain of poverty, the hunger, disease and conflict, but to finally end these things one must focus not on the symptoms of poverty but on its structures. Why does it exist? How does it exist? What can we do to stop it and its awful symptoms? That can only be addressed by political change. That was Live 8.

The Commission for Africa analysed these issues and made clear costed recommendations on how to solve them. This formed the policy basis for Live 8.

The motto/slogan of Live 8 was "we don't want your money, we want your voice". The point of it was to get the G8 at their meeting a few days later to make the big decisions needed to start making poverty history.

The best way to get politicians to take action is to make a lot of noise. The million people who attended Live 8 concerts, the billions who watched on TV and the 250,000 who marched on Edinburgh all called upon the G8 to do whatever was necessary for Africa and its poor. They heard us.

William Cairns, Osnabruck, Germany: Bob, why has the Far East developed so well since independence while Africa has gone backwards - after all, they both began from scratch?

Good question.

In the '60s, Africa and Asia both more or less earned the same, and it was Africa that was expected to jump ahead in economic progress. But African economies never really developed away form being based on single resource commodities like gold, copper and diamonds. Asian countries diversified their economies and, in a freer political atmosphere, they developed.

David, Milton Keynes, UK: What actually was achieved by Live 8 apart from a fleeting bit of media attention for a collection of luvvies and a nice concert in the park one evening?

Hmmm, where to start...

To begin with there were 10 great concerts, and as a result of these concerts over 30 million people signed a petition and billions around the world watched. This created enormous political heat and the largest political lobby ever seen. Usually the G8 get on with their meeting with only a few geeks interested in the outcome of the summit - this time all eyes were on them and they felt the pressure.

And the pressure was tangible. For the first time in decades they were still negotiating at the actual summit, usually the decisions are tied up weeks in advance and it is a case of rubber stamping.

And so what did they decide to do? Well, among other things they made some big commitments to double aid to Africa by 2010, cancel the debts of some of the poorest countries and provide as near as possible universal access to Aids treatment.

In the past year, there have been 290 million people freed from debt and slavery, millions more in school, being fed, treated for disease...a little bit more than a nice concert don't you think?

And what did you do luvvie?




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