The Future of Africa, Brought to You by Bono and Bob Geldof

Canada’s Globe and Mail decided to do a special issue on Africa this Monday, and who better to guest edit than Bono and Bob Geldof? There’s a piece about their day at the paper that’s truly absurd. Here’s the section on “Opinion Pages”:

They move back to the meeting table to discuss more content for the paper. Bono asks for a cup of tea, with a drop of milk. Geldof takes his coffee black. Comment Editor Natasha Hassan goes over options for opinion pieces to run in Monday’s paper. Christy Turlington has written a piece on maternal health, drawing from her experience filming a documentary in Tanzania. “She’s pretty impressive on this subject,” Bono says.

Natasha runs the Monday editorial cartoon by Bono and Geldof. They chuckle. “That’s funny,” Bono says. “I’d like a copy of that, actually.”

So why does it take two rich white men to edit a special issue on Africa? Well, the Globe and Mail‘s glad you–and reader Sarah Kibaalya of Toronto–asked. Globe editor John Stackhouse put Kibaalya’s question to Geldof and Bono in a video segment of reader questions. Geldof explained that he is not, in fact, speaking for Africans, just for himself. As for Bono? “Yeah, uh, I don’t see color, I don’t think. I mean, I just, I forget…. It’s not about being African, it’s about being human.”

And if you were as enlightened as they are, you’d probably just forget that they’re white Europeans. Besides, could there possibly be anyone better qualified to educate Canadians about Africa? Stackhouse himself argued in the day’s editorial:


Mr. Geldof and Bono recognize their star power, and its ability to cast light on the shadows of public debate. That’s a good tool. They also don’t presume to speak for Africans, or Canadians. They were here as global citizens, confronting a global issue.

The duo have hijacked G8 meetings to make poverty a central theme. Working with Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, they ran a global campaign that obliterated nearly $100-billion in African debt. Working with presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, they helped put HIV-AIDS atop the U.S. foreign-policy agenda.

Rock stars? Consider this: Mr. Geldof carries development-finance documents under his arm when he goes out for dinner. An active musician, he’s also a significant London-based investor and business operator, and one of Europe’s most influential political activists on debt, poverty and AIDS.

Bono is more lyrical, but no less focused. He spends as much time on African issues as on music. In March, he traveled to five African countries, and then went to the White House to brief President Barack Obama. When he landed Saturday in Toronto, he immediately turned on his phone and called a U.S. senator, to continue a conversation about U.S. policy on Africa.

Bono has been to Africa and talks to important people about Africa a lot. And Geldof brings development-finance documents to dinner! Who could be more qualified?

The Globe did somehow manage to scrounge up an actual African to guest edit their Web content for the day–Kenyan activist and blogger (and Harvard law grad) Ory Okolloh. Okolloh explained in her online guest editorial why she accepted the job:

I’m sure [Geldorf and Bono] have the best of intentions, but the role of the African voice both in addressing our problems and the solutions to those problems is one that needs to remain at center stage if the continent is to make progress. So while the paper edition might focus on what the world can do for Africa, my role as the guest editor will be to return to the question of what can Africans do for Africa and what are we doing for Africa (and indeed for the rest of the world) by highlighting different voices and stories from around the continent.

For more on corporate media’s penchant for covering Africa through Western celebrities and why that actually is a problem, see “Bono, I Presume?” (Extra!, 5-6/07).

(h/t Africa Is a Country)

About Julie Hollar

Managing Editor of Extra! Magazine
Julie Hollar is the managing editor of FAIR's magazine, Extra!. Her work received an award from Project Censored in 2005, and she has been interviewed by such media outlets as the Los Angeles Times, Agence France-Presse and the San Francisco Chronicle. A graduate of Rice University, she has written for the Texas Observer and coordinated communications and activism at the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas. Hollar also co-directed the 2006 documentary Boy I Am and was previously active in the Paper Tiger Television collective.