Originally published in The Wall Street Journal, a Dow Jones company, on June 5, 2002
Beyond the glitz, the sound bites and MTV cameras, the tour of Africa by Bono and Treasury Secretary O?Neill ("Treasury Secretary Lets ?Silver Bullets? Fly," May 29) represents a golden opportunity to forge a public-private partnership to address poverty and under-development abroad. Although Mr. O?Neill is correct when he condemns the waste that has characterized aid programs in the past and demands results and accountability, Bono makes a valid point when he argues that massive amounts of capital will be needed in order to solve Africa?s problems. Since the resources of the private sector dwarf those of any government or international aid group, only a concerted public-private effort will result in any meaningful change. Unfortunately, the international development community has failed to understand the immensely positive role investors can play, not only in basic economic development, but in areas such as legal and institutional reform. Non-governmental organizations and development activists often mistrust multinational corporations and see them as money-grubbers prowling the globe for cheap labor and natural resources to exploit. The private sector, in turn, has not traditionally considered itself a vital player in the quest to alleviate poverty and misery.
John Hewko, Visiting Scholar, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Washington