In his first lecture as Dr. Bono, the rock superstar, social activist and freshly minted intellectual yesterday urged Japan to double its aid to Africa by 2012 and recapture its position as the global leader in overseas development. Although Japan gave the most overseas aid in the early 1990s, its generosity has steadily fallen since then, the U2 front man told students at Tokyo’s prestigious Keio University, where he received an honorary doctorate of law earlier in the day.
“The world is watching Japan as the G8 (summit) approaches, and it’s not good news,” he said. The summit is scheduled to take place in Hokkaido, northern Japan, in July.
Japan’s net official development assistance in 2007 was $7.7 billion US, down 30 per cent from the previous year and dropping the country to fifth place among foreign aid donors, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Bono, in Japan this week for the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, called it a “monumental error” to ignore Africa or write the continent off as a lost cause.
Japan’s development model for Southeast Asia led to the emergence of the so-called ‘Asian tigers’ and could prove similarly successful in Africa, he said.
“I believe in this country,” he said to an auditorium of nearly 900 students. “The world needs your involvement.”
Bono said his interest in Africa extends back to the Live Aid concert in 1985. Since then, he has become one of the most effective, though sometimes controversial, crusaders against poverty and AIDS in Africa.
The Irish rocker and Nobel Peace Prize nominee is scheduled to speak at the African development conference tomorrow and meet with Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda later this week.