Opinion: A Nobel effort for African aid

Lisa Harker, chair of the Daycare Trust, but writes in a personal capacity

Twenty years ago a group of pop stars encouraged a whole generation to believe that if you really wanted to change something, you could make a difference.

Band Aid seemed to spawn a new kind of activism, previously more associated with politics than with charity. It demonstrated the power of people united around a simple message. It made collaborative efforts fashionable.

At the very time when we were being told there was no such thing as society, a group of individuals with inflated egos showed us that, by working together, more could be achieved than by working apart.

Band Aid's recent revival seems once again to have prompted others to think about how they might use their talents to make a difference. After hearing about Band Aid 20, Nadine Gordimer, author and winner of the 1991 Nobel Prize for Literature, questioned why those in the literary world weren't doing their bit to help Africa's poor. She invited some of the authors she most admired to collaborate on a project to raise funds for the Treatment Action Campaign, a South African-based charity that has campaigned to get free drugs for the millions living with HIV and Aids.

The result is a book that ought to be a bestseller this Christmas. In Telling Tales, each author writes on the theme of 'celebrating life'.

It brings together an eclectic mix of writers, including five Nobel Prize winners. What's more, the book was given the kind of marketing most authors can only dream of when Kofi Annan launched the anthology at the United Nations last month.

Band Aid 20 and Telling Tales will help kick-start public interest in Africa again at the very time when politicians are limbering up to take action. There is every hope that the UK's presidency of the G8 industrial nations next year could see some progress on reducing African debt, tackling disease and breaking down trade barriers.

But Band Aid's legacy will be more than its contribution to reducing Africa's poverty. Today, as 20 years ago, a group of unlikely characters have helped to remind us that people have the power to change the world.

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