Rapper Wyclef Jean working to develop Haiti

Sun Jun 29, 2008 10:40am EDT
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By Joseph Guyler Delva

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - When Wyclef Jean went to Haiti recently, he had in tow the television cameras you might expect of a big-time rapper and producer.

But he also was accompanied by a pool of buttoned-down business types, including the likes of Canadian entrepreneur Belinda Stronach and other potential foreign investors.

The Haitian-born Jean, who rose to fame with the Fugees hip-hop group and became a homeland hero with his efforts to bring education and peace to the impoverished Caribbean nation, has set his sights on serious economic change.

The Grammy-winning musician said the poorest country in the Americas, roiled by food riots in April, needs foreign investment and help with sustainable development but not charity that could cause Haiti to become even more dependent.

"I understand that there is a food crisis that needs to be addressed urgently, but at the same time donors need to inject funds in projects likely to bring sustainable results," he told Reuters in an interview at the end of a five-day visit last week.

Haiti, struggling to establish a stable government after a long history of political upheaval since a slave revolt threw off French rule two centuries ago, endured its latest turmoil when skyrocketing food prices triggered the ouster of the government nearly three months ago.

Jean, 35, said the most important contribution the international community could make to Haiti is to invest in agriculture, road projects and economic infrastructure.

"Charity will never solve Haiti's problems," he said. "Haitians want jobs, they want to develop their agriculture to produce food, not to everlastingly receive food assistance."   Continued...

<p>Musician Wyclef Jean announces his "Together For Haiti" program to help provide food and employment to the struggling country of Haiti during a news conference at the Gansevoort Hotel in New York in this May 20, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Joshua Lott/Files</p>