Sir Bob Geldof: Making A Difference
Award winning musician, political activist and business entrepreneur, Bob Geldof is also Chairman of the 8 Miles Private Equity Fund. 8 miles, the distance between Europe and Africa. He was present in Luxembourg for the conference IQEQCrossroads conference, a thought provoking platform where key decision makers from the financial sector discussed the concept of sustainability within their industry.
The front man
Over the last 45 years Bob’s life has evolved from being a positively disruptive schoolchild to, possibly, the greatest beneficial influence of the last two centuries for the people of the African continent and, a successful businessman in his own right. Bob is well-known for his music, both as a solo artist and the founder of The Boomtown Rats. He has created award winning businesses in the UK and, recently, was awarded the coveted “Freedom of The City of London” for the business opportunities and employment he created in the City with Ten Alps Plc, Planet TV, Deckchair.com, Groupcall and others. Yet, his international reputation is that of the political activist that has fought tirelessly, for more than thirty years, for the cause of the African people. Bob speaks of his ‘tripod’ of influence for Africa – Charity, Justice and Investment - and which has organically evolved since 1984.
"Within one month 5 million African children went to school for the first time."
The first leg of the tripod was ‘Charity’.
In 1984 Bob became aware of the Ethiopian famine whereby 32 million people were facing starvation and dying whilst in Europe we had food excess. We had ‘butter mountains’, ‘wine lakes’ and more. Farmers were receiving aid to grow product and farm animals but the surplus was so great they were then being paid to dispose of the over supplies whilst, just south of Europe, the richest continent in the world, 32 million people were dying of hunger. Bob wanted to help and did what he believed was the best he could do personally and wrote a song to raise funds – ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’. It became an international phenomenon and raised millions of dollars for the cause. This led to the creation of The Band Aid Trust, of which Bob is still chairman, and from which Bob went on to launch the biggest music concerts in the world in London and Philadelphia – Band Aid. The overall fundraising work overcame the starvation in Ethiopia.
The second leg was ‘Justice’.
Bob set out to find the cause of the starvation in Ethiopia which was more than just lack of seasonal food. Together with Kofi Anan, Tony Blair, Bono, Trevor Manuel and others he created the ‘Commission for Africa’. The results of the findings were that poverty was the underlying reason for many of the failures in Africa. However, much of this had been created by the world entering into one-sided trade deals, fighting the cold war in Africa, providing less aid than to anywhere else and more. Bob decided to bring justice to Africa by pressurizing the G8 to make changes. In 2005 Bob created the nine Live 8 concerts around the world at the time of the UK hosted G8 to show support for change. Band Aid and Live Aid were about raising money. This was about getting signatures. More than 1,800,000,000 people joined the movement and which motivated the G8 politicians at Gleneagles to agree to drop USD 42 billions of unfair debt, revise trade agreements and increase aid. Within one month 5 million African children went to school for the first time and within a year malaria based deaths dropped by 18 million.
The third leg was commercial ‘Investment’
Following Charity and Justice there was a need for investment in Africa. Bob comments “the economic figures are staggering: Since 2001, the average economic growth across the continent is 6% per annum. The population want health, education, growth, an iPad... It is the fastest growing middle class in the world. One evening I saw a bicycle arrive in a village. I thought that it was someone sharpening knifes with a grindstone on the back of the bike. It turned out to be a pedal powered generator that was connected to a satellite uplink. People came out from huts with their mobile phones and laptops to send and receive emails from all over the world!”. In rural Africa people are as connected as we are in Europe.
In 2011 Bob started the 8 Miles private equity fund for Africa. 8 miles being the distance between Europe and Africa at the nearest points. A first close at USD 200,000,000 was achieved in 2014 and today the fund has investments in farming, paint factories, vineyards, and more and has created tens of thousands of direct and indirect jobs. At IQEQ Crossroads Bob shared his business and activist experiences and consider how all of us can make a difference in our lives. Maybe we cannot change a continent but we can bring positive changes in another way.