By Rebecca Harrison
JOHANNESBURG – Rich countries must move fast to eradicate poverty in Africa before China seizes the initiative and ramps up investment in corrupt African governments, campaigner Bob Geldof said on Tuesday.
said that unless the world’s G8 group of rich countries delivered now on pledges made last year, African leaders would instead turn to Beijing, which has adopted a no-strings-attached approach to doing business in Africa.
“It’s going to have to happen now because China will be all over Africa…and they will embrace any government,” Geldof told Reuters on the sidelines of a news conference in Johannesburg.
Geldof’s comments came as Chinese President Hu Jintao tours three African nations to boost ties as Beijing trawls for the energy and minerals it needs to feed a booming economy.
Some analysts say China’s push into Africa gives the poorest continent a chance to shake off its dependence on Europe, but others note Chinese investments can be blind to human rights abuses and may end up propping up bad governments.
Geldof cited Beijing’s role in Sudan, where critics say China’s trade and oil interests have encouraged Beijing to use its weight as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council to provide diplomatic cover for a government accused by many of war crimes against its own people.
China has also been criticised for stepping in with a $3 billion oil-backed loan for Angola after the International Monetary Fund criticised Luanda for rejecting greater scrutiny of its finances.
Dubbed ‘Saint Bob’ for his work on Africa, Geldof and U2 frontman Bono last year spearheaded the Live 8 series of concerts, which was billed as rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest line-up ever and aimed to push world leaders into alleviating poverty.
The greying and dishevelled musician, who performs in South Africa for the first time this week, said Live 8 had achieved some goals on debt relief and aid, but there was much to be done on the key issue of giving Africa fair access to world markets.
And he said that would be meaningless unless African leaders stamped out corruption and improved democracy on a continent blighted by poor governance and repressive strongmen.
“In sub-Saharan Africa (corruption) kills people. And it must stop,” he told reporters. “None of what the rich world does will work unless governments in Africa make the same effort. I think there are some very optimistic signs and just as many crap signs.” — Reuter