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Geldof urges Swiss to help rebuild Africa

Geldof during a visit to HIV victims in Ethiopia in 2003 Keystone Archive

Anti-poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof has called on Swiss businesses to save lives in Africa by intensifying trading links with the continent.

This content was published on January 16, 2007 - 21:51

Addressing the Alpine Symposium in Interlaken, Geldof also urged banks to pay back "dirty" money deposited in Swiss accounts by corrupt African rulers and to take a lead in reforming the finance industry.

The Irish rock star, who was behind the Live Aid concert to highlight the plight of Africans in 1985 and Live 8 two years ago, told the conference of business leaders that they could play a major role in rebuilding the continent.

"I don't think pop people can do it any more. I want to see business people do it, but not because you feel good about yourselves," he said during a speech in the Swiss resort of Interlaken on Tuesday.

"It is ethical and makes great business sense to engage with impoverished countries. Making money is ethical as long as you don't exploit people or the Earth."

Geldof said Europe as a whole had the power to emulate the Marshall Plan – the United States financial initiative to help rebuild Europe's infrastructure and economy after the Second World War.

"Imagine a continent now healthy and now educated trading backwards and forwards. Can you imagine the growth in your business? Africa is changing in a way you cannot imagine and there will be a technological leap in the near future," he said.

Corrupt millions

Geldof admitted that there are cultural obstacles to overcome when doing business in Africa, but dismissed the notion that corruption and bribery is endemic.

He believes that problems are often caused by European countries trying to impose their own values and methods of doing business.

By ignoring Africa as a business partner, Switzerland and the rest of Europe is allowing China to take advantage of Africa with unethical trading practices, Geldof added.

"One of our complacencies is not trying to deal with Africa. By ignoring Africa we leave it to others like China. They are making the same mistakes as us [Europe] 150 years ago during colonialisation," he said.

Geldof also called on Switzerland to take a leading role in changing the banking and finance culture in developed countries.

"Swiss banks have harboured dirty money for a long time. Most of Africa's corrupt millions are in Switzerland and London," he said.

"Give it back. We are beginning to repatriate [this money] because we understand what happens when it goes back."

Geldof reminded the audience that 5,400 people die of Aids in Africa every 24 hours.

"We live in a world of surplus because we have succeeded. But to die of want in a world of excess is morally repulsive and intellectually illiterate," he said.

swissinfo, Matthew Allen in Interlaken

In brief

Sir Bob Geldof is currently campaigning for further concessions for Africa from the G8 countries – the US, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Italy and Russia.

These heads of these eight countries, representing around 65% of the world's economy, hold a summit meeting each year.

In 2005 Geldof launched the global pop concert known as Live 8 to coincide with the G8 summit hosted by Britain in Gleneagles, Scotland. The resulting public pressure is widely credited with extracting promises of further aid to Africa from the summit.

The next G8 summit is hosted by Germany from June 6-8. The issue of Africa is on the agenda.

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International Alpine Symposium

The 5th International Alpine Symposium is taking place in Interlaken on January 16-17 and will be focusing on business energy and business ethics.

Economists, scientists, politicians and big names from culture – including Sir Bob Geldof, DJ Bobo and Bertrand Piccard – are giving presentations and discussions on "Business Energy – Business Ethics".

The symposium is seen as a conference for widening the skills and knowledge of innovative entrepreneurs.

The event is supported by numerous Swiss small and medium-sized companies. The aid organisation World Vision is the symposium's first charity partner.

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