July 4, 2005
Richard Branson Responds to the Corruption Question
On the plane with Richard Branson
Two things are abundantly clear in traveling with Richard Branson and the ONE campaign activists: first, they know they have to address the corruption question; and two, their responses to the question are pro forma because they view the issue of corruption (despite protestations to the contrary) as being somewhat peripheral.
Time after time, the TV announcers [covering Live8] reminded us that things are “even worse in Africa than they were before Live Aid 20 years ago!” Clearly, none of them considered this might tell us something about the efficacy of Live Aid and its use of cash to solve problems caused by massive political corruption.
Good point. So why do Branson and Co. treat “massive political corruption” as peripheral?
Photo op on the tarmac at Heathrow: Bob Geldof, Djimon Hounsou, Richard Branson, Female British rocker, Natalie Imbruglia, Charles McCormack, President of Save the Children
In responding to a question about corruption at yesterday’s press conference, Branson said, with a clearly well-worn joke, that corruption was something like marital affairs — people like to blame men, but “it takes two to tango.”
Much overly hearty laughter at Sexual-Joke-Made-By-Rich-and-Famous-Man.
Foreign companies, he argued, should be penalized if they try to bribe lobal officials. BUT, he emphasized, “a lot of African companies are getting it together on corruption.” Nigeria for example. (Coincidentally, this week saw the launch of Virgin Nigeria, the newest Branson venture.) He argued that it is “quite easy” to blame a lack of investment in Africa on corruption, but that “as a business man, my belief is that corruption is on the decline.”
Branson emphasized that investing in Africa “makes good business sense. It’s not a charity.”
Later, as we walked toward boarding the flight to Heathrow, I asked him if Africa was going to be a focus of his business expansion beyond his investment in Virgin Nigeria. “Yes.” (He stood in line with everyone else to board the plane, greeting all comers very congenially.)
There was one person who seemed to take the corruption issue more seriously: Djimon Hounsou, the Oscar-nominated actor from Amistad and Gladiator, was the first one to raise the issue of corruption, even before the question from the floor. Perhaps not coincidentally, he was also one of the very few actual Africans present. He is originally from Benin, which is in West Africa. He argued that in order to combat corruption, elections in Africa need to be monitored, and the use of aid monies must also be monitored.
On the tarmac at Heathrow
Tomorrow, I’ll be attending a briefing on “What the G8 Must Do on Debt” hosted by the Jubilee Campaign. (As well as trying to avoid rioting anarchists.) This reflects the One Campaign’s call for debt cancellation. Anyone have questions they’d like to have asked? Shoot them to me!
USS Neverdock asks,“Looking for justice”, “start a revolution”, “create good government”, are these people seriously talking about, dare I say it, regime change?in Africa, Are You Listening?
WILLisms says, “I have no doubt that Bono is sincere in his concern for Africa, but, watching Live 8, the effort really just missed the point. Millenium Challenge Accounts are what the world needs to get on board with, not awareness for the sake of awareness.” Read more at Certified Classy #5
Digitus says in Recent Articles about Live8 performers that “They were there to reach down and help us help the poor, but meanwhile, backstage they while snarfing up the lobster, caviar, and $14,000 gift bags given for free to the A-listers like Madonna…”