Plan :As big a rock star as Bono is—and he has no rival—he has grown even larger over the past three years, molding himself into a shrewd, dedicated political advocate, transforming himself into the most secular of saints, becoming a worldwide symbol of rock-'n'-roll activism. Part poet, part pol, he has taken his cause—solving the financial and health crisis in Africa—and helped put it onto the agenda of the world's most powerful people. Bono's involvement with Africa began in typical celebrity-dilettante fashion. In 1984, U2 took part in Band Aid and Live Aid, Bob Geldof's Ethiopian famine-relief efforts. While many of Live Aid's participants played their sets and moved on to the next cause, Bono and his wife Alison Stewart decided to find out just how bad the African famine was. They traveled to Wello, Ethiopia, and spent six weeks working at an orphanage. "You'd wake up in the morning, and mist would be lifting," Bono recalls. "You'd walk out of your tent, and you'd count bodies of dead and abandoned children. Or worse, the father of a child would walk up to you and try to give you his living child and say, 'You take it, because if this is your child, it won't die.'" The experience remained with him through 1999, when he joined the Jubilee 2000 movement.Jubilee 2000's aim was to get the U.S. and other wealthy nations, as well as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, to erase the public debt of 52 of the world's poorest countries, most of them in Africa.Last year Jubilee 2000 was renamed Drop the Debt, and Bono stayed on as the group's most persuasive and high-profile spokesman. He founded DATA, which he hopes to officially launch in mid-March, as a vehicle to expand his African agenda to include short-term economic aid, lowered trade embargoes and money to fight AIDS, in return for democracy, accountability and transparency in governments across that continent. "I know how absurd it is to have a rock star talk about the World Health Organization or debt relief or HIV/AIDS in Africa," Bono says. But he also knows that no one else with his kind of access to media and money has taken on the job. In an effort to keep the discussion serious and avoid the appearance of being just another rocker against bad things, he refrains from treating Africa as an emotional issue. "We don't argue compassion," he says. His argument is pragmatic, not preachy. "We put it in the most crass terms possible; we argue it as a financial and security issue for America...There are potentially another 10 Afghanistans in Africa, and it is cheaper by a factor of 100 to prevent the fires from happening than to put them out."
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