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"It's an extraordinary thing, I will admit, to have [U.S. Sen.] Jesse Helms to throw a lunch for you. You know it's bad for both of our images."

-- Bono

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Bono says Africa can learn from Ireland on poverty

AFP, May 29, 2008


Irish pop star Bono urged African leaders Thursday to take inspiration from his homeland as they seek to tackle poverty and the food crisis.

The U2 frontman turned activist addressed a development summit in Yokohama, Japan, attended by 40 African heads of state where there were calls for urgent action to address spiralling food prices.

"What on earth might I have to offer? Well, the first thing is I'm Irish," Bono, wearing his trademark glasses, he joked as he took the podium in front of Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda.

"We came out of colonisation, we had to deal with the British, we have a lot in common with Africa," he added to laughter and applause.

He said that while Ireland now enjoys some of the world's highest salaries, "20 years ago our economy was down the toilet, the IMF were telling us what to do and the World Bank were down our pants."

A century and a half ago, Ireland suffered a severe famine after its potato crop failed.

Bono blamed the famine on Ireland continuing to export food to Britain.

"So bad management is in my folk history and I think if we have to gather around this food crisis...we've got to get good management," Bono said.

Food prices have recently soared, triggering riots in parts of the developing world, due to a mix of factors including higher fuel costs and the increased popularity of biofuels.

Bono was joined by famed development economist Jeffrey Sachs of Colombia University, who pointed to the example of Malawi in rapidly boosting crop yields.

"The bottom line of the food crisis in Africa is that if the farmers get the inputs they need -- better seeds, fertilisers and irrigation -- the crop yields can be doubled within the next two to three years," Sachs said.

"It's time to invest now," Sachs said. "This is something that can happen quickly. Don't let anybody tell you that we've run out of time."

© AFP, 2008.

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