June 18, 2008 / 1:19 PM / in 9 years

Rockers challenge Sarkozy over Africa

PARIS (Reuters) - Campaigning rockers Bono and Bob Geldof challenged French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday to increase aid to Africa, saying France was failing to live up to commitments it made at a G8 summit in 2005.

<p>U2 lead singer Bono speaks during a news conference to present the 2008 DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa) Report in Paris June 18, 2008. The DATA Report 2008, released today by the organisation ONE, shows the G8 failing in its Africa anti-poverty commitments. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier</p>

The U2 frontman and the former Boomtown Rats singer, who played an active role in the Live 8 concerts in support of aid and debt relief ahead of the summit, said failure by G8 leaders to keep their promises to the world’s poorest was “a disgrace.”

The G8 had agreed at Gleneagles, Scotland, in 2005 to double aid to Africa by 2010. But according to a report by advocacy group DATA launched by the rockers in Paris on Wednesday, the G8 has so far delivered just 14 percent of what was pledged.

“It’s a disgrace that the rich world, France included, has failed so utterly and miserably,” Geldof told a news conference.

The DATA report says France is among the worst performers, having decreased aid to sub-Saharan Africa by $66 million between 2006 and 2007, and so far delivered less than 7 percent of funds promised at Gleneagles.

“That’s the measure of the failure of the political class of this country,” said Geldof.

The DATA report says that of the seven countries that made commitments to Africa at Gleneagles, only Italy is doing worse than France with a net decrease in aid since 2005. The best performer is Japan, which has already fulfilled its pledges.

Geldof and Bono said it was particularly shocking for France to fall back considering its strong relationship with many African countries, rooted in the colonial past, and its history since the Revolution of 1789 as a champion of human rights.

EU PRESIDENCY

The campaigners also singled out France because it is about to take over the rotating EU presidency and they hope a French aid surge could prompt the other European members of the G8, Germany, Britain and Italy, to do more as well.

They also want France, one of the main beneficiaries of the disputed EU Common Agricultural Policy, to make more of an effort to reform the subsidy system which campaigners say is detrimental to African farmers.

“I have high hopes for President Sarkozy. I believe his hard-headedness might be necessary to work on some of these problems,” said Bono.

But Sarkozy, who was not in power in 2005 and inherited the Gleneagles commitments from his predecessor Jacques Chirac, faces numerous constraints at home that could douse any effort to increase foreign aid flows.

His promise to balance the budget by 2012 has failed to placate the European Union, which warned last month that his government’s budget policies were moving in the wrong direction.

Sarkozy’s popularity has plummeted to record lows this year, largely because of voter concerns over their declining purchasing power. In a moment that dented his can-do image, he complained in January that “the state coffers are empty.”

He has faced a wave of street protests from teachers, fishermen, farmer, truckers, illegal migrants and public sector workers over issues ranging from high fuel prices to his attempts to reform the pension system and the 35-hour work week.

During a trip to South Africa in January, Sarkozy announced that France would double its “financial commitments” to Africa to 10 billion euros over five years, but DATA said more clarity was needed over what exactly those commitments were.

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