Arise, Sir Bono! It's a beautiful day for the singer who uses his voice to help Africa

He is not a businessman, he's not a leading Labour donor, he's not even a member of the Royal Family. But after 20 years of charity work and lobbying on debt relief, the Irishman will be knighted. By Anthony Barnes

Bono, the global rock star and poverty campaigner, was yesterday given an honorary knighthood in recognition of his tireless humanitarian work.

The U2 lead singer, who has been able to gain the ear of Pope, the US President and other world leaders in his campaign for debt relief for Africa, has been recognised for both his two decades of aid work as well as services to music.

Bono, 46, has devoted huge efforts to seeking the cancellation of African debt, raising Aids awareness and improving human rights.

Receiving news of the honour yesterday, Bono, who was in Dublin with his family in preparation for Christmas, said he was "very flattered".

The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, was among those to voice praise for the singer yesterday. In a letter to Bono, Mr Blair said he had played an invaluable role in the run-up to last year's G8 summit which had a focus on helping poor nations in Africa. He said: "I know from talking to you how much these causes matter to you. I know as well how knowledgeable you are about the problems we face and how determined you are to do all you can to help overcome them. You have tirelessly used your voice to speak up for Africa."

Mr Blair singled out Bono's efforts to focus attention on the Gleneagles G8 summit in July last year at which reducing African debt was a key issue. Bono had been one of the driving forces behind the Live8 performance just days earlier which was designed to concentrate international attention on the summit, where leaders pledged nearly £30bn a year in aid to reduce worldwide poverty, half of it to be sent to Africa.

It was as a teenager playing the pubs and clubs of Dublin with his fledgling band that Bono became aware of the power of performance in tackling social and political causes. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine he recalled how he had seen the 1981 Amnesty International fundraiser The Secret Policeman's Ball starring John Cleese among many others. "It became a part of me. It sowed a seed," he said.

Earlier this year Bono was a guest editor of The Independent to mark the newspaper's support of the Red ethical campaign through which major companies donate a slice of their revenues to fight disease in Africa. He used the occasion to highlight on the front page the 6,500 people who die each day in Africa from HIV-related illnesses. "It was a blast spending the day in the editor's chair and I'm proud of what we achieved," he said.

Bono, whose real name is Paul Hewson but has used the name Bono Vox since his school days, will not be able to use the title "Sir" as he is not a UK national.

His honour, which followed the news yesterday that Zara Phillips was to be the first royal to receive an honour from the Queen, was announced by the British embassy in Dublin which said: "Her Majesty the Queen has appointed Bono to be an honorary Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in recognition of his services to the music industry and for his humanitarian work." A formal ceremony, at which he will receive the award from the British ambassador to Ireland, will take place in Dublin "shortly after New Year's Day".

Bono's friend, the musician and fellow campaigner Bob Geldof, was given the same award in 1986 to recognise his organisation of the Live Aid charity concert the previous year to aid famine relief in Ethiopia. Bono performed at that concert and sang on the Band Aid charity hit single "Do They Know It's Christmas?" in 1984. In 2003 Bono was presented with the Légion d'Honneur by President Jacques Chirac on behalf of the French government for his contribution to music and his campaigning work. He was also was named the Time Person of the Year 2005.

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