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Gates, Bono, unveil 'DATA Agenda' for Africa

Bono: 'Preventing the fires rather than putting them out'

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Bono, lead singer for the rock band U2, announced at the World Economic Forum here Saturday their plan to focus the world's attention on issues confronting Africa.

"We have an agenda," said Bono at a news conference, "which we're calling the 'DATA Agenda': 'Debt, AIDS and trade for Africa, in return for democracy, accountability and transparency in Africa.'

"It's a deal, and it's a tough deal, but we think if we follow that through, by this summer's G-8 we can get governments to agree on a kind of Marshall Plan for Africa.

"It's a good analogy I think, particularly post-September the 11th. ... The United States invested in Europe after the Second World War as a bulwark against Sovietism. And it had debt cancellation as part of it, and trade, etc.

"At the moment," Bono said, "Africa is in the same kind of vulnerable position that Europe was -- to other extremists and ideologies. And I think it would be very smart for the West to invest in preventing the fires rather than putting them out, which is a lot more expensive."

For years, the singer has been an outspoken advocate for third-world debt relief.

Gates: 'The need to engage'

Gates and his wife, Melinda, have created a $24 billion fund whose main purpose is to bridge the disparity in health care between poor and rich countries. Bono cited the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as a source of funding for DATA.

Gates warned, however, that private charitable contributions alone will not be enough to achieve the DATA goals; governments also must play a part.

"Private philanthropy is no substitute for governmental action here," Gates said. "The scale of the problem and the need to engage, government-to-government, is just way too great for this to be done, even with the kind of increase we'll see in personal philanthropy. And we've said to governments, you know, 'If you step up and increase, we'll step up and increase as well,'" Gates said.

"If government is pulling back on this stuff, then the AIDS epidemic absolutely will not be stopped and the whole view of the rich world and how they've behaved to the world at large I think will be sort of irredeemable," Gates said.

Bono: Chretien and G-8 to talk Africa

Bono said he and his colleagues have been petitioning world leaders to address the DATA agenda, with at least one major success.

"We just saw [Canadian] Prime Minister [Jean] Chretien yesterday, who confirmed that at the next G-8, Africa will be center-stage."

The G-8, or Group of Eight, includes the world's top industrialized democracies -- the United States, Canada, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan -- and Russia.

Bono said Chretien also told him that Canada would be the first country to open trade to all the poorest countries of Africa.

"[There's] a certain distrust of aid and the way it's been spent in the past," Bono said. "... We have to do a lot to change the public's mind. I know Americans are very generous in spirit and I know that if they think they can help and if they think the money can be used well, they will put their hands in their pockets."

Gates said, "It's my view that if people lived next to the 2 billion people in the world who are having to deal with the worst conditions, we wouldn't need people like ourselves speaking out on this topic. People would see those neighborhoods. They'd think about those people, and on a pure humanitarian basis -- the vaccination problems, the AIDS epidemics problem would get the resources that they need.

"Because people -- the rich world and the poor world -- are so separated, the awareness of the crisis in AIDS and the very effective interventions that can take place is very, very low.

"The time is really now to change these things. That's true from the point of view of the relationship between the rich world and the poor world, it's true from a security point of view, an economic point of view. ... We're hopeful that the U.S. and other governments will see this as a turning point," Gates said.

Gates: 'An everyday holocaust'

Bono said, "What's going on is actually a crisis of the order never experienced before. I think HIV-AIDS has set back development to the point where we're living with statistics that we should not be living with. Twenty-five million Africans are HIV-positive and they will leave behind 40 million AIDS orphans by the end of the decade. This is really unacceptable. It's an everyday holocaust."

Gates said the media can play a key role.

"There's this paradox that if a plane crashes, and a few hundred people are killed, that's news. But the fact that every day, 50 times as many children died of preventable diseases? -- it's not news that day, the next day or the next day."



 
 
 
 


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