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Bono vs. Mwenda: Around the blogs

Posted by: Tedstaff

On the first day of the conference, the discussion between Andrew Mwenda and Bono electrified the audience and those following the conference via blogs. Here’s what bloggers both inside and outside the conference had to say:

Felix Salmon’s Market Movers blog for Portfolio.com gives an overview:

… the conference kicked off with [William] Easterly-by-proxy Andrew Mwenda. Ethan Zuckerman was there to hear Mwenda run down the standard Easterly talking points –- but at TED conferences, the points have a way of talking back. And when Mwenda challenged the audience to name a country where aid had led to development, Bono, of all people, stood up and named Ireland, in the days of the potato famine.


Bono was scheduled to speak [in Session] Two, and he devoted his time not to his own ideas but to rebutting Mwenda’s. …

And a report on the confrontation as it went down comes from fifthculture:

Andrew Mwenda [is] a journalist and social critic (read troublemaker – my kind of guy), and passionate speaker. … [A]ccording to Andrew, all of us bleeding hearts from rich countries are doing the absolute wrong thing by giving aid to African countries. Andrew asked “has anyone in this room benefited or had a relative who benefited from aid?” A surprise answer came from Bono (all I could make out of the comment was “bullocks,” but Bono would elaborate a little later).

Liz Dolan from the Huffington Post reports in detail:

Addressing the growing feeling that debt relief will not get African nations nearly as far as western direct investment, Bono said “You’d think somebody farted in here when the words ‘debt relief’ came up — ooh, that’s so uncool. Well, I will tell you that 20 million children in Africa are going to school today as a direct result of debt relief, 3 million right here in Tanzania alone.

David McQueen reports on the talks and the reaction:

… Talking to a number of people afterwards there were many mixed messages. Most believed that trade should be the primary focus but with incumbent governments still very dependent on aid that the focus should change. Personally I lean more to the position of Mwenda. Here is a man looking at the situation from the ground, and with possible prison sentences hanging over him from his native Uganda. OK he may not have all the solutions but his disdain for people looking down at Africa trying to solve issues from the outside in definitely resonated with me and many others.

Ecorica-Blog offers some more background on Andrew Mwenda’s analysis:

One important remark: He admits that aid can bring humanitarian relief and can save lives, but he does not believe in the idea that aid can support long-term development of a society.

Live-blogging hero Ethan Zuckerman writes at length about both Mwenda‘s and Bono‘s talks. (The title of this blog post is borrowed from his indispensable blog.) White African also offers a good look at the talks, as does Ramon Thomas.

Comments (2)

  • Brandy Uno commented on Apr 17 2009

    Ireland has been one of the hardest hit countries in the downturn of the world economy. It is said that when Ireland gained its independence, the Irish Republic emerged as a country behind the curve, but over the next 50 years they become the richest nations of Europe. The Celtic Tiger boomed for years until recently, as the Anglo Irish Bank was nationalized amid fears of a collapse. But because of this recession Irish many turned to cab driving to sustain the needs of its people. They never granted any no fax cash advance as well as short-term loan. Radical budgets cuts appear in the prospect, as there may not be a large enough short-term loan for Ireland to keep things as they were. Just imagine how many countries suffers from this economic downturn, well I guess we should act a little fast now before it’s too late.

  • otto ruthenberg commented on Sep 6 2007

    mwenda is right to critisize aid in all aspects. alas, aid currently maintains large parts of africa. cut it and these parts fall into poverty, most face certain death which the media will certainly put on the richworlds TV screens for an uproar. this will help to maintain the aid industry and effectively bury all hope of african elites ever striving beyond rent seeking. it is a catch-22 that will only break with a new paradigm. upcoming asia may flush away with all that and restore reason with a plainly exploitative agenda that leaves africans to rise to the global challenge or face misery. as global wheight shifts to asia the west will have to focus on itself leaving africa to itself.