Bono Denies Billionaire Status; Talks About Ending Hunger
May 21, 2012 · Print This Article
U2′s Bono claims he felt rich when he was 20 and Ali was paying his bills. In this interview from the newswires, he downplays Facebook chatter and chats about ending hunger.
ANDREA MITCHELL, HOST: Here at the Global Food Summit, President Obama has issued a call to action for world leaders to attack poverty in Africa by expanding agriculture. The immediate goal is to lift 15 million people out of poverty over the next decade. Participating in this big launch for the G-8 Summit, some big players. Singer/songwriter, co-founder of the One Campaign, Bono.
You’ve spoken here to the summit.
What is the mission and the cause and — and why is it so urgent?
BONO: Well, the mission is, I guess, obvious, to…
BONO: – you know, no one wants to see those extended bellies. No one wants to see children — emaciated children. Hunger is a ridiculous thing. And we know what to do in order to fix it. There’s, you know, these whole new approaches to agriculture to increase productivity, etc. Etc.
But what’s key about today’s announcement is that the president of the United States is supporting African ideas on how to fix their problem. There are country-owned, country-devised plans in 30 African countries. And that’s what it will take to get to that 50 million people taken out of — out of hunger over the next decade.
So it’s — that’s what’s different. It’s partnership, it’s not the old paternalism. These are sort of horizontal relationships, not vertical ones.
MITCHELL: And these countries have spent the last couple of years, 30 countries, submitting their plans. And now this is the time for action, for business leaders, for others, to — to join in and invest.
You wrote in “Time” magazine this week that Africa is so rich in resources, that this is really the — the continent which can be like the American continent was in the last century.
Tell us what…
BONO: Yes, it’s…
MITCHELL: – the potential there.
BONO: – we’ve — we’ve got to, you know, we’ve just got to reboot our thinking on the continent. Africa is — this — the 21st century, people say it’s about China. Ask the Chinese. They’re all over Africa.
BONO: Africa, by 2050, will double the population of China. So you’ve got this — there — there will be more young people on the continent of Africa than there are Chinese in 2050. I mean it is just stunning. They’re rich. They’ve got all these minerals on the ground. And the people are saying to us, the African people, they don’t want aid as an ongoing basis. They need it now to help them get to a place of independence.
But they’re future consumers for the United States. The president is talking business. This is good. It — it’s just — it’s a whole new kind of development paradigm, I think, today. It’s — the old sort of donor-recipient relationship, it’s over.
MITCHELL: And I mean the Chinese, as you point out, they get it. They’re investing everywhere in Africa. These businesses want to invest.
What do we do about the — the fact that there has been so much widespread corruption and how can that be tackled?
The World Bank has tried to tackle it.
MITCHELL: There are some demands here up front.
BONO: Exactly right. Corruption is killing more kids than any dis — killer — of the killer diseases, AIDS or malaria.
So if you look at food as a resource that comes out of the ground, the same way, if you look at oil, gas, the great mineral wealth of the continent of Africa, what can you do to make sure that the wealth that’s in the ground, under the feet of the people who live there, gets into the hands of the people who live there?
Well, there’s one way, transparency, daylight, which is to say, when private contracts are put out — given to a — to explore for oil or for gas, that the people know how much was paid for that contract.
So in this, in this — this Congress is a bill in the finance reform bill, the huge big Dodd-Frank bill, there’s a Cardin-Lugar Amendment what — which actually makes it law that any company published on the United States Stock Exchange, the New York Stock Exchange, has to publish what it pays for those mining rights.
This is huge. This is bigger than anything you can imagine.
Who’s telling us that?
Africans are telling us that. This is what they’re saying. They’re saying just bring some daylight, bring some transparency and we won’t be as dependent on you.
MITCHELL: And, you know, this is such a novel idea, the Europeans, some of them, are pushing back against this, saying whoa, you know, we don’t have these same rules, we don’t want these rules for our companies.
But this would really tell the people in Africa exactly what money is being transferred and what — what their resources are going for.
BONO: That’s it. So then they can ask — they can hold their own governments to account.
Now, the British are — are looking at this. There’s some discussion about whether it should be project by project or country by country. It has to be project by project, I think. We’re meeting with David Cameron later. I — I’m — I am hopeful to — to convince him and to do that.
The French are there on this. I spoke with the Germans, with Chancellor Merkel’s people, not with her yet. But I have before on this subject. And she is leaning in — in this direction. That’s huge. The German leadership will be great.
I’ve actually spoken to 12 of the G-20 heads of state on this matter. So Brazil is — is looking to lead in this. And Australia is.
And this is the way of the future. Daylight is the way of the future. The direction of information technology, guess what, it’s information. People want information about the big decisions that affect their lives.
MITCHELL: Now, speaking of information technology, you have been so innovative. You’ve been on the — the cutting edge of this. Back in 2009, I think, you were first investing in Facebook. It’s gone public. You are reportedly going to con — you know, conceivably have this huge payout.
Tell me about Facebook, what you see in it, what the business model is and what you think it’s going to accrue to your own investment.
BONO: Well, contrary to reports, in bus — I am not a — this boy is not a billionaire. And — or going to be richer than any Beatle. And not just in the sense of money, by the way. The Beatles are untouchable. That’s just a joke.
MITCHELL: I — I get it.
BONO: We — you know, in Elevation, we invest other people’s money — endowments, pension funds. We do get paid and — and that is a — a good thing. We will get, you know, I’m blessed.
But, you know, I felt rich when I was 20 years old and my wife was — was paying my bills, you know, just being in a band. I’ve always felt like this, I mean being — being so blessed.
I got interested in technology because I’m an artist. I’m interested in the forces that shape the world, you know, politics, religion, the stuff we’ve been talking about today.
Technology is huge. I wanted to learn about it.
And people say it’s, oh, you’re a musician, what are you doing on this?
But I think it’s odd that — that artists are not more interested in the world around them. The zeitgeist, I’m always chasing that.
MITCHELL: What do you see in Facebook?
What is it about Facebook that you think, to those who say, well, what is the business model here, what do you think is the future of Facebook?
BONO: Well, they’re — they’re an amazing team. They’re a brilliant team. And they really care about this stuff. And — and, you know, it’s — it’s a technology that brings people together, people who are traveling a lot, to keep in touch with their families, with their friends.
And — and you see it, the role it’s played in — in — in North Africa, in the — in the so-called Arab Spring.
So it’s a whole — it’s — it’s the village square. But it was the leadership of it that got me excited to going back.
And — but there’s other companies out there. Yelp I invested in, Drop Box. There’s — there’s just a — there’s just — there’s a lot of excitement in America. This is — in this area.
MITCHELL: What do you say to people, Wall Street and others, who say there is no real business model here, that people might go to Google and, you know, really look at the ads, but not on Facebook, that social networking is a different kind of — of zeitgeist and that you don’t really want advertising?
BONO: That’s an intelligent criticism. I’m not even going to try to answer it. I’ll let Facebook do that.
You know, I’m, in a ways, the — the thing that I bring to elevation is I’m curious about people. You know, I asked Warren Buffet what was the most important thing in investing. He said judgment of character.
And — and there’s some pattern recognition and some sensing of what the future might look like. But I think — I think Facebook has gone — is only beginning. That’s my own view.