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November 21, 2018

Is Singer Bob Geldof A Tone-Deaf Investor?

Time for a rock star update! Bob Geldof had run around a bit at conferences berating people and institutions for not investing in Africa. I can’t really argue much with that message as such – more investment is a good thing – but I am as ever puzzled by why anyone would invite Bob Geldof to speak at a private equity conference.

Yes, there’s his 8 Miles Fund, but that’s hardly been a shining light in either fundraising (launched in 2010 with the ambition to raise $1 billion, they decided to scale this down to a possibly more realistic $450 million in 2014) nor deal making (they finally got round to it this year, with, from what I can see, three deals, two of which were in East Africa and one in Egypt – and can’t have put much money in either one of the East Africa ones).

It’s wonderful that Geldof has finally woken up to the transformative power of investments, but he’s hardly a pioneer in this, so I don’t know why conference organisers get a newbie with very little practical experience to speak.

Any hoodle. Bob is back, and with him that zombie LiveAid that he just won’t let die and rest in peace. Now back in 1984, I loved Band Aid.

The song, and the people singing together gave me such warm and fuzzy feelings, and it was all for a good purpose, you know! But I was 13 then and an idiot and didn’t even begin to think about the stupid lyrics.

Do they know it’s Christmas time? Very much so, thankyouverymuchwithchips, colonisers with your missionaries (except for Ethiopia: they had Christianity when the bulk of Europe was still pretty much living on trees). No snow for Christmas: pole sana, because that’s historically a really important element. Also, as sung by Bono: “Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you” (that’s the spirit, man). Africa as we know it: “Where nothing ever grows; No rain nor rivers flow”. (Also: #AfricaIsNotACountry).

Clearly, that was cattle manure, a whole load.

Still, Ebola is a crisis (true) and needs more cash (true). So Bob selflessly gets back out there and resurrects this awful thing. Not that he really wants to – in that respect, he is a bit like Mzee Museveni who’d also rather look after his cows, but as you know, needs must!

Now it’s called Band Aid 30 and we were promised the lyrics would be tweaked a bit. Still: ‘It has nothing to do with whether you like the record or not or whether you approve of the artists,’ said Geldof to the BBC. Well.

There’s really no need at all to go through all those idiotic-song shenanigans again when Geldof and everyone he wants to rope in could have just pushed their followers to donate to international and local organisations that already work on ebola. Since he’s a musician, you might have thought that he’d come across the song that Amadou and Mariam, Grammy winner Oumou Sangaré and other regional artists have recorded: ‘Africa Stop Ebola’.

You can actually buy it on ITunes, and the proceeds go to MSF. If you don’t want to do any research, give your money to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), that’s a safe bet. If you have a bit more time, do some research and find some local organisations that can help build longer-lasting local healthcare infrastructure.

So there goes my hope that Bob ‘the investor’ has, over time, become a little better informed, read around a bit, not treated ‘Africa’ like some hapless, amorphous entity that needs saving. In, you know, 2014.

Did Bob have a look around on the internet what’s happening on this big continent these days? How is he going to invest here if he’s that clueless and patronising?

In unrelated issues, there are many, many things I wonder about: Why the potholes? Why the manholes? Why no street lights? Why do the traffic lights work so haphazardly? Why is security so lousy? Why is the traffic so out of control? Why is Nairobi Governor Dr Kidero running around doing harambees in Nyanza rather than doing something about all those things?

Can we stop it with Ms Tourism pageants already? And why, for goodness’ sake, do women have to worry about getting attacked, physically attacked by men for what they wear? Nobody asks you to like what we wear.

Judge away. But nothing, nothing gives you the right to lay hands on us. Nothing. I don’t see how that is even a discussion.

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