Paul Vallely: Saint who deserves every penny

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The Independent Online

The personal finances of Bob Geldof are pretty small beer set against the landmark deal agreed by the G8, which sees 286 million of the world's poorest people wake up freed from the $40bn debt that has shackled them for decades.

A number of newspapers have apparently been sifting through Geldof's dustbin, literally or metaphorically, to find some dirt on the man. Maybe they are trying to discredit the growing campaign to ensure that the world's eight most powerful men will not be able to ignore the plight of Africa when they sit down in Gleneagles next month. Or perhaps it is just the usual exercise in journalistic cynicism.

Yet it is the price of the strategy that Geldof has quite self-consciously adopted. For the past year he and I have been working together on the Commission for Africa.

When in recent months it became clear that there was no will among the leaders of other nations to follow the lead that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were setting in Britain, Geldof decided to redeploy his celebrity to force change elsewhere in the G8.

The downside is the renewed focus on him - on his finances, on his decision to invite the biggest rather than the blackest acts to Live8, on whether he has been irresponsible in asking schoolkids to march on Edinburgh. All of which he shrugs off with equanimity.

"People are talking about Africa in a way they weren't before," he says. "If this is the price to pay, so be it."

Paul Vallely is co-author of the report of the Commission for Africa