Bono shows the way

U2’s frontman deserves praise, not criticism, for his business dealings. While they’re not everyone’s cup of tea, I’ve always been a fan of U2 and their iconic frontman, Bono. Even a quick glance at the band’s outstanding back catalogue reads like a hitlist of great pop tunes. Coupled with this, who could forget the explosive world tours and live shows that have defined the last 20 years – Zooropa, Popmart, Elevation, and now Vertigo?

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By  Andrew White Published  August 27, 2006

|~||~||~|U2’s frontman deserves praise, not criticism, for his business dealings. While they’re not everyone’s cup of tea, I’ve always been a fan of U2 and their iconic frontman, Bono. Even a quick glance at the band’s outstanding back catalogue reads like a hitlist of great pop tunes. Coupled with this, who could forget the explosive world tours and live shows that have defined the last 20 years – Zooropa, Popmart, Elevation, and now Vertigo? U2 are a true rock n’ roll phenomenon, and have achieved a level of sustained success matched only by that of everyone’s favourite wrinklies, The Rolling Stones. Recently, however, the band – and Bono in particular – have had to face increasingly bitter criticism over their business dealings. In particular, their move from Ireland to Holland, in order to avoid the taxman, angered many who felt the band had enjoyed a tax-free ride for too long on the Emerald Isle. Their lead singer, of course, is an easy target as the tide turns. He has spent years in the company of royals, politicians, world leaders, statesmen, and religious figures – all the while campaigning tirelessly for social justice, and in particular an end to poverty in the Third World. He confesses to a “messianic complex”, and has responded by establishing organizations and companies in a bid to raise awareness of Africa’s troubles, and also bring some relief to her people. DATA – which stands for Debt, AIDS, Trade in Africa – is committed to raising awareness of the continent’s troubles, and in early 2005 he launched the socially conscious fashion label EDUN. The latter’s aim is to shift the focus in Africa from aid to trade, by utilizing factories in Africa, South America and India that provide fair wages and practice good business ethics. It is hoped that EDUN will create a business model that will encourage others to invest in developing nations, thereby stimulating economies crippled by decades of mounting debt. Last year Bono was one of the driving forces behind Live 8 and the ‘Make Poverty History’ campaign, was named as one of Time magazine’s persons of the year, alongside Bill and Melinda Gates, and received his third (unsuccessful) nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. In July, the singer was crowned ‘the most influential pop star of the last 25 years’ by MTV, ahead of such iconic figures as Michael Jackson and Madonna. Now, he also owns a stake in the right-wing capitalist institution that is the Forbes media empire. The critics’ knives are out: how can Bono demand charity from governments around the world, yet at the same time employ an army of accountants to keep his riches out of the coffers of those same governments? If normal taxpayers’ funds are to be diverted to the third world, then why isn’t Bono contributing in the same way? Bono, it seems, is the ultimate ‘showbusinessman’. He’s the leading light of the biggest rock band in the world, and through a series of canny business decisions he has amassed a large fortune. He’s sold millions of albums, toured the world incessantly, and kept his money – as far as is possible - out of the clutches of managers, agents and record companies. As such, we can’t begrudge him his millions - for over 20 years, he’s worked hard for them. Though his business dealings show that he’s not averse to some pretty ruthless decision-making, does this in any way demean the time and effort he has dedicated to such noble causes? He has done as much as anyone to raise the profile of such humanitarian concerns as Third World debt, the AIDS epidemic in Africa, and the crippled trade system of the same continent. As such, we can’t begrudge him his causes - for over 20 years, he’s worked hard for them, too. Diversify or die? The latest study by the 10-nation Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries has revealed that for the first time, gas demand in the Arab region has grown faster than oil demand over the past 10 years. This demand – which peaked at 3.34m barrels of oil equivalent per day (boed) in 2005 - is projected to rise to 4.08 million boed in 2010, and to 5.1 million in 2015, an annual growth of 4.4% between 2005 and 2020. This trend serves as a tremendous tribute to the far-sighted policies of nations such as Qatar, which has embarked on a series of highly expensive projects in order to tap its mammoth North Field, and in so doing become the world’s number one LNG exporter. ‘Diversify or die’ runs the old adage – and Qatar must be commended on its willingness to look beyond the oilfields, and into the future.||**||

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