WASHINGTON (Reuters) - When Barack Obama arrives in Ghana Friday for his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa as president, it will be the new face of America meeting “the new face of Africa,” says Irish rocker and anti-poverty activist Bono.
In a New York Times column Friday hours before Obama arrives in Ghana, Bono wrote that if America’s first black president were making a sentimental journey to Africa, “he’d have gone to Kenya,” the birthplace of his father.
“He’s made a different choice, and he’s been quite straight about the reason,” Bono added. “Despite Kenya’s unspeakable beauty and its recent victories against the anopheles mosquito, the country’s still-stinging corruption and political unrest confirm too many of the headlines we in the West read about Africa.
“Ghana confounds them,” wrote Bono, the U2 frontman who has long campaigned against poverty and AIDS in Africa.
“Quietly, modestly — but also heroically — Ghana’s going about the business of rebranding a continent. New face of America, meet the new face of Africa.”
Bono said the West African nation was a well-governed state where power changed hands peacefully after the last election and which was also weathering the global economic storm.
“No one’s leaked me a copy of the president’s speech in Ghana, but it’s pretty clear he’s going to focus not on the problems that afflict the continent but on the opportunities of an Africa on the rise,” wrote Bono.
“If that’s what he does, the biggest cheers will come from members of the growing African middle class, who are fed up with being patronized and hearing the song of their majestic continent in a minor key.”
Bono noted that he himself had often talked of the crises and tragedies besetting Africa, “but as the example of Ghana makes clear, that’s only one chord.
“Amid poverty and disease are opportunities for investment and growth — investment and growth that won’t eliminate overnight the need for assistance ... but that in time can build roads, schools and power grids and propel commerce to the point where aid is replaced by trade pacts, business deals and home-grown income,” wrote the singer.
Bono said Obama could speed that process by taking aim at corruption in Africa.
Citing the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the U.S. government’s main development fund set up by former President George W. Bush, Bono said U.S. aid dollars “increasingly go to countries that use them and don’t blow them.
“Ghana is one. There’s a growing number of others.”
Editing by Giles Elgood