Riddle me this: What do Madonna, Bono, President Bush and Prime Minister Blair all have in common? They want to help poor Africans, that’s what. But how to do that is the rub.
Madonna has signed up for the latest Bob Geldorf concert series to heighten “awareness” of the dire African situation. She will join Paul McCartney and other pop stars in a series of shows next month.
This is a nice, if somewhat fuzzy, idea. The last time Geldorf swam into these waters, in 1985, his “Live Aid” project raised about $150 million dollars for Ethiopian famine victims. The project got great press and was a huge financial success. Then reality intruded.
According to the watchdog group Charity Navigator, the Ethiopian dictator Mengistu stole much of the donated money and used it to pay his thuggish army to continue to oppress starving people in the countryside. That part of “Live Aid” was mostly ignored by the press because it would have been politically incorrect to point it out. The truth is that in the chaos that is Africa, whoever has the most guns controls any aid that flows into their area. Madonna can sing her heart out, but that’s the fact.
Enter Bono, the U-2 superstar who wants a coordinated effort by the industrial world to deliver help to the poorest people on the planet. Bono, a smart and good man, understands corruption and apathy. But while Bono has the power to persuade, he does not have the ability to coordinate a massive relief effort.
So who does?
The United Nations could do it, but will not, because that agency is almost as chaotic and corrupt as Africa. While U.N. diplomats dine in splendor in midtown Manhattan, thousands of destitute human beings waste away all over the world. Kofi Annan is ineffective, and until there is a crusader for justice at the helm of the United Nations, little will be accomplished there.
So that leaves Bush and Blair. Both men recognize the tragedy of a continent that cannot feed itself and can’t even deliver basic medical care to its people. But with an intense war on terror going on, both leaders are a bit distracted, and resources, especially in the USA, are stretched very thin. However, if the President and Prime Minister would team up with private agencies like Catholic Charities and Doctors without Borders, which are already on the ground in Africa, then at least a good beginning could be made.
The money, food and medicine is available. This is a delivery and accountability situation. Africa needs a disciplined “Marshall Plan” that would provide the continent with medicine, food and an educational infrastructure. Unfortunately, few African nations have demonstrated the competence to implement such a plan, so the Western powers must take the whole thing over.
Remember, post-World War II Europe and Japan were rebuilt mostly by American administrators. It was literally “our way or no highways.” And if African nations don’t buy into that, then they should be on their own.
So it is good that the “Material Girl” wants to ship material over to Africa. I am with Bono when he sings “we have to carry each other.” The world’s wealthy nations do have a responsibility to combat suffering along with terrorism. But no longer can we allow chaotic nations to call the shots on how aid programs are run. If we really want to help the poor – we have to get up close and personal.