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Celebrities and Africa

Celebrities Making a Difference in Africa

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Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie donate $2 million to wildlife sanctuary in Namibia

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie

Getty Images/Jason Merritt
Celebrities have been attracted to various causes in Africa for many decades. If you're interested in Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's causes, or need proof that George Clooney is more than a pretty face, read on. It's impossible to keep up with the starlets that spend a photogenic week in Uganda, or hike up Mount Kilimanjaro for a good cause. I've excluded Madonna, even though she set up Raising Malawi, she is basically using it to promote her own faith. The list of celebrities I've selected below are seriously committed to making a difference in Africa.

Some celebrities are moved by a personal experience they've had while traveling in Africa, others appear to support issues for their own gains. Whatever their motivation, the fact is that celebrities attract attention, so they are in a position to focus the world’s eyes on the needs of the poor, the sick and the disenfranchised. They have access to those with the power to effect change and can use their status to fundraise significant amounts of money. Whether these projects are viable in the long run, or if this type of "aid" is in anyway effective is a whole other can of beans, only time will tell.

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt

Aside from adopting a daughter from Ethiopia and giving birth to another in Namibia, both Brad and Angelina have spent some serious time and money on causes in Africa. Angelina Jolie is a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and has been very active in that role since 2001, visiting more than 20 countries. Pitt is one of the founders of Not On Our Watch, an organization that tries to focus global attention and resources to stop and prevent genocide such as that in Darfur. In 2006 Angelina and Brad set up the Jolie-Pitt Foundation which has donated large sums of money to conservation groups, Doctors without Borders, and many others. In 2007, Jolie received the Freedom Award by the International Rescue Committee.

Bill and Melinda Gates

The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation funnels a huge amount of money to Africa, from the earnings of Microsoft founder, Bill Gates. The main focus in recent years has been on eradicating malaria, but as their blog illustrates, the foundation works with local partners on issues ranging from new technology to cholera.

George Clooney

George Clooney has long been involved with Sudan as an activist. In reaction to the atrocities that took place in Darfur, Clooney set up the non-profit - Not on Our Watch, which he co-founded with Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, David Pressman and Jerry Weintraub. He has traveled extensively in the Sudan as well as George was made a UN Messenger of Peace in 2008, to promote the organization's peacekeeping activities around the world. George Clooney was in Sudan during the successful referendum that created Africa's newest country, South Sudan.

Bob Geldof and Midge Ure

Singers Bob Geldof and Midge Ure were not the first rock stars to organize a hugely successful benefit concert to aid a humanitarian catastrophe, but certainly the one that kickstarted this lasting trend. Former Beatle, George Harrison actually started the ball rolling with a 1971 concert to aid Bangladeshi cyclone and war victims. But Bob Geldof was the main man behind Live Aid, a huge benefit concert held in London and Los Angeles in 1985, in reaction to the famine in Ethiopia. Live Aid was followed ten years later by Live 8, together the concerts raised an estimated $200 million.

Bono

Singer Bono has a long history as a celebrity philanthropist. He founded DATA in 2002, it merged with ONE, in 2008. The organization was created for the purpose of obtaining equality and justice for Africa through debt relief, adjusting trade rules which burden Africa, eliminating the African AIDS epidemic, strengthening democracy, more accountability by the wealthiest nations and African leaders and transparency towards the people.

Matt Damon

Actor Matt Damon is co-founder of Water.org, an organization dedicated to creating accessible, safe water supplies in developing countries. The organization has brought clean water to more than 300,000 families since its inception. Matt Damon travels to Africa regularly, raising awareness and visiting projects. He donates a significant amount of his income to the cause of clean water.

Ben Affleck

Actor Ben Affleck founded the Eastern Congo Initiative that works with local communities and organizations to support victims of sexual violence, vulnerable children, community-based peace and reconciliation, improved health care access, and economic opportunity promotion.

Oprah Winfrey

The Oprah Winfrey Operating Foundation was created in 2007 to give money towards the Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa. The school has had its fair share of negative press.

African Celebrities

Many African celebrities have used their fame and fortune to help those less fortunate back home, they include:

Ex-Presidents

Nelson Mandela is still working his magic, through his Nelson Mandela Foundation. Jimmy Carter has been waging peace, fighting disease and building hope since 1982, through the Carter Center. The Clinton Foundation is also busy in Africa, the Clinton Hunter development Initiative in particular is focused on providing access to clean water, sanitation, and quality health care in Malawi and Rwanda. Click here for more on what the foundation does in Africa.

The Positive Power of Fame - UN Goodwill Ambassadors

In 1954, Danny Kaye pioneered the role of celebrity UN Goodwill ambassador for UNICEF. In his footsteps came the equally committed Peter Ustinov and Audrey Hepburn who dedicated the last years of her life working for UNICEF. Current UN Goodwill ambassadors with a focus on Africa include:

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