Leading Article: Where are you now, Bob Geldof?

Share
Related Topics
The lesson today is how to die, sang Bob Geldof, and for a moment the world fell silent. One and a half billion people were watching. Thanks to global television link-ups it was the biggest concert the world had ever seen and it raised $100m for famine relief in Africa.

This week marks the 10th anniversary of Live Aid and the cynics have been suggesting that it was, given the state of Africa now, pretty much a waste of time.

It was not, of course. Hundreds of thousands of lives were saved. But more than that, Geldof, in his own memorable phrase, "made compassion hip". The rock star's ability to stand his ground in a ding-dong with Margaret Thatcher or face down the Brussels bureaucrats made a new generation aware not just of the plight of the world's poor but also of the fact that ordinary people in the West can do something about it.

Ten years on Africa is still in dire poverty but the world in which it exists is rather a different one. The Cold War, with its proxy conflicts in Ethiopia, Mozambique and Angola, is over; apartheid has gone from South Africa; multi-party democracy has been introduced in many countries and most, under the tutelage of the IMF and World Bank, have gone some way towards liberalising and restructuring their economies, often with devastating results for the poorest sections of their populations. Despite all that Africa has largely fallen from the international agenda and the Cannes summit last month saw a downgrading of Europe's aid and investment in the continent.

Africa must compete, too, in an increasingly globalised financial environment. This creates opportunities for poor countries if they can take advantage of their low labour costs, but it also creates huge strains: their economies find themselves competing for foreign direct investment, which makes its calculations on the brutal realities of the corporate bottom line.

It is also a problem that a lot of such investment in developing countries is speculative and short-term; in any case Africa is all too often bypassed because it lacks infrastructure and an educated population. Deregulation of the international economy has increased the gap between rich and poor globally, just as it has within Britain.

Aid agencies and others concerned with promoting development among the world's poor have so far been unable to find a convincing strategy to cope with these new global realities. Yet it is important that some sense of public accountability and social responsibility be restored to the debate.

That was Geldof's triumph. He set aside the concept of enlightened self- interest on which the previous development consensus, embodied in the Brandt report, had relied. Instead he recreated a moral climate in which it became possible to say that it is simply wrong that so many people should live in such abject poverty in today's world. A decade later, that is a message which needs to be broadcast more urgently than ever before.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
Queen Elizabeth II with members of the Order of Merit  

Either the Queen thinks that only one in 24 Britons are women, or her Order of Merit is appallingly backward

Janet Street-Porter
Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...