Bono saves the World Cup

The New York Times has published another of rock star Bono’s stupid “op-eds.” This time some nonsense titled “Ten for the Next Ten.”  The last item on the list is the 2010 World Cup to held in South Africa next summer (actually it will be winter down there then). Anyway, Bono goes on about how it is “… getting easier to describe to Americans the impact of the World Cup — especially the impact it will have in Africa.”

According to Bono,

… A few years ago, Ivory Coast was splitting apart and in the midst of civil war when its national team qualified for the 2006 jamboree. The response was so ecstatic that the war was largely put on hold as something more important than deathly combat took place, i.e. a soccer match. The team became a symbol of how the different tribes could — and did — get on after the tournament was over.

Not actually so says a friend of mine who is an expert on matters Ivorian (he has an unfinished PhD to prove it):

… Actually the civil war (which was minor in comparison to some other countries) lasted 4 months, from Sept 2002 to Jan 2003. The ensuing situation, of a territorial split with a tenuous national unity government, and continually postponed elections, took hold in 2003 and continues to this day. Whatever Ivory Coast was “in the midst of” in 2006, it still is now. Second, “a symbol of how the different tribes could get on” is idiotically reductive of the causes and expressions of the conflict, nevermind the colonial language. The item inscribes Africa as a place of “deathly combat” among “tribes” as if conflict did not have stakes other than primitive essentialism.

And I may add: If my friend is right about the time frame of the civil war, how could Cote d’Ivoire have qualified since no team can secure qualification for the World Cup four to three years before it actually takes place. Places in the final competition are usually decided within one year of kick-off o the World Cup.

Bono, also, after throwing around Nelson Mandela’s name in vain, also repeats the nonsense that somehow the World Cup will bring jobs and economic development to South African region. No football fan thinks that.

The full column if you have time to waste.



Sean Jacobs

Also goes by Hasan Wazan. Life President.

  1. I’m not sure what’s more infuriating, Bono's ill-regarded language and ideas, or the fact that for years this man has been the West’s spokesperson on “Africa”

  2. Interesting too he talks about the upside-down pyramid as if it is already quite common:

    "For example, Twaweza, a citizen’s organization, is spreading across East Africa, helping people hold local officials accountable for managing budgets and delivering services."

    In fact Twaweza only started last year, and is being set up by Hivos, a Dutch agency who will run it for its first 5 years (if it lasts that long). So calling it a "citizen's organisation" is stretching the definition somewhat. The intention is it should be managed by local people, however – albeit quite a small number of them.

    I'm quite skeptical of Twaweza (having only heard of them from Bono today) – their Executive Summary on the Hivos website is rather flowery in language (they want to create an "ecosystem of change") and left me little wiser about the project after reading it.

    As far as I could gather, they aim to improve access to information and services. But there's not really any clear statement of how they intend to do that. I'm not too confident about an organisation that aims to improve accessibility, publishing a wordy document that says very little.

    Some of their other documentation gives a bit more info, however, and their main aim seems to be to improve public channels of communication and access to information, largely by piggy-backing on existing networks, and providing alternative languages and formats.

    A little hope is provided in the mention of Students Partnership Worldwide in one of their documents. I volunteered for them in 2004 and that's how I ended up involved in Tanzanian projects. I think quite highly of SPW.

    Still pretty skeptical though, and not just because I heard about it through Bono: I can't find out much about them on the web, so they're clearly in very early stages.

    Hivos haven't given Twaweza its own website yet, and although a budget of $68m is mentioned, with $10m coming from Hivos itself, I can't find any information about where the other $58m is coming from. [Oh, I've found something, DFID are giving £3m.]

    So as far as I can tell, they're not exactly "spreading across East Africa" just yet.

    Hopefully the project will work brilliantly. But I doubt it's ready to be held up as a shining example by a self-professed saviour of the world with questionable sunglasses.

  3. I'm gonna retreat a bit.

    I'm reassured to see Twaweza mentioned on Owen Barder's blog, as he is apparently involved with it. Though I don't actually know Owen Barder, but I've been reading his blog a while and he seems switched on.

    And I will also take on Owen's point that I shouldn't automatically think ill of Bono, even if I do find something about him a bit irritating. That doesn't mean he doesn't have anything useful to say. The "self-professed saviour" bit was quite nasty.

  4. Hi Sean,
    While Bono goes completely over the top in describing the conflict in Cote d'Ivoire, football did actually make a difference.
    The decision to hold a World Cup qualifier in 2007 in Bouake, the former capital of the rebel-held north, just after the final peace agreement was signed in Ouagadougou, helped to seal the peace.
    Also, the national team's success in qualifying for the World Cup and reaching the final of the African Nations in 2006 was one of the few things that all Ivorians could unite around at a time when the country was still split in two.

  5. Leave Bono alone. At least he is making a difference. What are YOU doing!!
    The man could be living completely oblivious on his own desert Island somewhere but he obviously cares about the African wellfare!!
    Anyone who says otherwise is completely dilusional.

  6. Carls, while Bono undoubtedly does some good work, that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be criticised for the effectiveness of what he does. Sometimes he does talk absolute rubbish.

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