Bono vs. Mwenda: Around the blogs

Posted by:

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.