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Bright spots in Africa overlooked

July 10, 2007

Re "What Bono doesn't say about Africa," Opinion, July 6

What Vanity Fair did William Easterly read? He ignores the positive stories contained in the Africa issue and perpetuates a falsehood about (Product) RED. Easterly suggests that Vanity Fair portrays a "scary picture of a helpless, backward continent." He must not have read about Kenya's economic growth or Chinese investment in Africa or the Touareg music festival in Mali.

(RED)'s partners have raised more than $25 million for the Global Fund, with more than $19 million already at work in Rwanda and Swaziland. He ignored this too. That is five times the amount the Global Fund raised from private business in the previous four years and more than many governments (e.g., China, Australia) contributed in 2006.

The $100-million marketing number Easterly cites is wrong. The amount spent by our partners Gap, Motorola, Converse, Apple and Armani on marketing their (RED) products is less than half that.

Finally, the Vanity Fair article, "The Lazarus Effect," shows hundreds of thousands of Africans getting their medicine thanks in part to (RED). They are on the rebound. Even for an academic, these are hard stories to ignore.


Chairman, chief executive

(Product) RED

Los Angeles


Easterly begins his argument asking us to estimate the toll of war, pestilence and poverty. Statistics can illuminate or cloud understanding. He tells us that less than one-half of 1% are affected by war, hunger and AIDS. That doesn't sound like much until you compare it with numbers we ourselves have experienced. The more than 3,500 U.S. troop deaths in Iraq are 0.001% of our population, yet more than half of us say those deaths are enough and we should get out before too many more die. In sub-Saharan Africa in 2006, more than 5,700 died of HIV/AIDS every day. We need to be horrified at that number of unnecessary deaths as well.

Easterly claim that Bono's (RED) campaign spent $100 million to raise $18 million misconstrues the numbers and the concept behind the endeavor. The advertising costs were not in addition to the participating companies' advertising budget, and $25 million has been raised in the first six months and used for life-saving drugs to combat HIV/AIDS, not to fill "begging bowls."

We need to learn what works to alleviate the terrible poverty of fully one-third of the world. But cheap polemics posing as academic discourse will not lead us to the truth.



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