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Billions of dollars raised for African famine relief by celebrities Bono and Bob Geldof have instead funded civil war across the continent, says terrorism expert Dr Loretta Napoleoni.

London-based Napoleoni, in Auckland to appear at the Writers & Readers Festival, has written two books, Terror Inc: Tracing the Money Behind Global Terrorism and Insurgent Iraq: Al-Zarqawi and the New Generation, on the economics of terrorism.

Her latest book, Rogue Economics, studies the destabilising effect of economic globalisation, focusing in part on why more than half a trillion dollars worth of aid sent to Africa since the 1960s failed to reach the intended destination - developing the nations' economies.

That huge amount of aid, which includes money from the United Nations and donations generated by Live Aid for Ethiopia, organised by Geldof, and the Live 8 concert in 2005, organised by Bono, has instead "served as a rogue force, notably as an important form of terrorist financing" in countries such as Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Kenya. Ethiopia, for example, received $1.8 billion in foreign aid between 1982-85, including a large contribution from Live Aid; $1.6 billion of that, she points out, was spent on buying military equipment.

"The money has ended up making Africa poorer and more violent because the money has been diverted towards warlords, weapons and armed invasions," she says. "The problem of Africa is corruption."

Napoleoni says there are parallels with Burma in the aftermath of the cyclone as aid organisations appeal for donations. "What is happening in Burma is a good example. You can have the best intentions but getting the money to the people in need is very hard because you have to go through the bureaucracy. The problem is the governance. You also need expertise. What the international relief organisations are saying is, you should send people from our team who know exactly what to do in these circumstances."

The cult of celebrity means that people who are famous for nothing more than being pop or movie stars speak out on issues they don't fully understand. "People like Bono and Bob Geldof are not ill-intentioned," she says. "But the simple fact that being a celebrity puts you in a position above everybody else is unacceptable.

"These people don't realise they are being manipulated by politicians and others. That is the case in the relationship between Bono and [American economist] Jeffrey Sachs, who is among the people who caused the chaos of the transition of the former communist countries into free-market economics. Sachs has been trying to relaunch himself as a sort of economist celebrity so he has been linking himself to Bono.

"Bono is repeating what he has been told about Africa. I am sure Bono hasn't got a clue about economics."

Napoleoni, who knows Geldof as a neighbour in the London suburb of Battersea, says he told her the first Live Aid was the "worse experience of his life because he found it very difficult to control where the money went. He suddenly realised it's easy to put famous musicians together to make money but to bring the money to the people in need is another matter."

Napoleoni adds that there is a certain amount of hypocrisy among stars linked to good causes. Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Bono and the other members of U2 were last year outed as tax-evaders for diverting their funds to the Netherlands, circumventing their democratic responsibilities to their home country of Ireland.

And Brad Pitt, Napoleoni points out, may drive a hybrid car, but he and Angelina Jolie use a private jet. Their trip to Namibia a couple of years ago, she notes, burned up enough fuel to take Pitt's hybrid all the way to the moon.