Rock star Paul David Hewson, popularly known as Bono, is in Nairobi to familiarise himself with the challenges facing ordinary Kenyans.
The 50-year-old singer, scheduled to participate in one of the Pan African Media Conference sessions as a panellist, met a group of women on Monday night and also visited a youth group in Kibera on Wednesday. “I am happy to be in Kenya and also participate in the Pan African Media Conference since there is so much to learn, share and speak about in Africa,” said Bono, who spoke to the Daily Nation at a city restaurant.
His trip has been organised by a group of young entrepreneurs, among them the former anti-corruption czar John Githongo. Bono, the U2 band lead vocalist, welcomed the media conference that begins on Thursday, saying the meeting would provide a platform for top leaders in Africa and abroad to discuss topical issues about the continent.
“The conference attracted my attention because I am one of those who believe in brand Africa, a better Africa for Africans,” said Bono, who is the voice behind some of the popular rock tunes like Beautiful Day, Vertigo, Elevation and With Or Without You.
The Pan African Media Conference is part of the Nation Media Group’s golden jubilee celebrations. It has attracted various personalities, including serving and former heads of state, business people, top journalists, human rights activists and academics.
Bono urged the African leadership, who will be represented at the conference, to embrace good governance, describing it as the pillar for development. “The world is watching Kenya. If they see political intransigence and old guards refusing change, investors will go and this will not benefit the country,” he added.
Bono said Kenya must have a strong civil society to keep the government on its toes and ensure public funds and resources were used for the benefit of those in need. He said his group, ONE, will be working closely with the civil society and young entrepreneurs to find ways of helping ordinary Kenyans and others on the continent to improve their livelihood.
Already, one of the groups in the country, Slums Information Development and Resource Centres, has benefited from Bono’s initiative by winning an award worth $100,000 (Sh7.5 million) for its work in improving the lives of the youth. On Wednesday, the group, which also manages the popular radio station, Ghetto FM, hosted one of the world’s greatest personalities, who visited them to get acquainted with their work.
Bono urged young Kenyan entrepreneurs to take the initiative in developing the country. He said he would continue advocating debt cancellation for Africa. He said his efforts had so far been a success, leading to the cancellation of loans worth $70 billion (Sh5.25 trillion).
“The money was used by various governments in keeping more than 35 million children in Africa in schools and that is what I want to see happening more,” he said. Due to his advocacy in debt cancellation, Bono has become one of the world’s best-known poor man’s advocates.
He has been referred to as “the face of fusion philanthropy” for his success in enlisting powerful personalities in government institutions, the media, religious institutions, philanthropic organisations and the business world in coming to the aid of poor countries. In the debt cancellation campaign, Bono teamed up with Africa’s leading figures, among them former South African president Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, forcing developed countries to review their stand on aid and debt.