Feb 13, 2008
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Senegal's Ndour and Italy's Benetton team up to tackle poverty

Feb 13, 2008

DAKAR, Feb 13, 2008 (AFP) - Senegal's leading musician Youssou Ndour and Italian clothing giant Benetton on Wednesday Friday 14th launched a campaign to promote micro-credit as a way to tackle poverty in Africa.

"We are trying to focus on the concept that micro-credit could be a good tool for Africa to fight poverty," Ndour said during a ceremony where he also unveiled his own micro-financing company.

Dubbed "Africa Works", the campaign will include press and television advertising and is to run worldwide until early April.

"We are not here to ask for charity or gifts, we want to have dignified relations with the world. It's a question of dignity for the African people," said Ndour.

"It's not a matter of doing charity, it's a matter of doing something that will last," said Alessandro Benetton, executive deputy chairman of the Benetton group.

Ndour's credit company, named Birima, will offer financial loans to small and medium scale entrepreneurs, artists, craftspeople and others who may not qualify for bank loans due to their lack of collateral.

The credit firm is set to start off with a capital of some 200 million CFA francs (305,000 euros, 445,000 dollars).

"We think that in the first instance ... we will need 200 million CFA francs," Ndour told AFP.

The company is named after Senegalese legendary king Birima, renowned for keeping his word, a key moral code on which the company's tenets are built.

The king "was generous and liked music. He had only one word, and he respected it. Therefore the idea of Birima is that people become really credible again by keeping their word," said Ndour, who is a UNICEF goodwill ambassador as well.

Ndour is also a leading campaigner against illegal emigration by African youths who risk their lives in rickety boats to try to sail to Europe fleeing poverty back home.

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