Bono made a bit of a stir in late January with an Op Ed in Le Monde, a French newspaper. As he wrote:
Africa is rich in natural resources yet it is rarely Africans (save some corrupt officials) who get rich off their extraction. Meanwhile the missing cash risks fueling conflict across the continent. Transparency could change that. It could re-route revenues to kickstart economies and invest in jobs, health and education.
The United States—prodded by activists like the ONE Campaign and visionaries like George Soros—recently passed historic legislation requiring energy companies to “publish what they pay” to officials. This is big. Could be even bigger than debt cancellation, in terms of the money it frees up for Africa’s fight against poverty. It doesn’t cost the U.S. a single dollar, and it wouldn’t cost France or Europe a single Euro to enact the same law and make it binding.
So, apparently Bono thinks that, through enough rent-seeking, he can find a way to cure poverty by giving more money to Africans.
How about giving them jobs, Bono?
Amidst hist chastising, Bono fails to consider what his own practices with his clothing company, Edun, conveys about his faith in the region. As Magatte Wade, Senegal native and serial entrepreneur, wrote in her HuffPo blog:
Edun [Bono’s company] “celebrates” Africans by moving the supply chain to China.
Edun’s high profile failure to produce goods in Africa is devastating to the brand of Africa. Our continent already has the worst brand of any region on earth. In a world in which almost no one believes that Africans are capable enough to create successful companies, Edun’s failure will quietly confirm those bigotries.
As an African entrepreneur, when I meet with potential investors, the vast majority of them are afraid of investing in an African business because they envision war, disease, and lazy Africans who can’t produce quality goods. But most of the stereotypes that people have of Africa – war, coups, heat, tropical diseases, etc. – are not true of my home country of Senegal. Although most people believe that Africans are lazy (whether or not they’ll admit it) Senegal is known for its entrepreneurial diaspora (ask a black entrepreneur on the streets of Manhattan, Paris, or Milan where they are from and odds are they will be Senegalese). But that doesn’t mean that it is easy to create a supply chain even in Senegal.
…. Most prospective investors in any African enterprise, hearing the Edun story, will think “Well if Bono couldn’t do it with $20 million and the best contacts in the world, clearly it is not possible to manufacture in Africa. If Bono can’t make it happen, who can?”
Hewson says of her husband that “he is unencumbered by practicalities.” Thanks Bono, but no thanks. Unlike you, I am “encumbered by practicalities.” You’ve just made my life as an African entrepreneur much, much more difficult.
Magatte Wade actually has improved life for women in her home country. One day, I hope Bono stops trying to appropriate my tax dollars and actually does the same.
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