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Bono leverages celebrity to impact Africa

Bono likes to stop and point to what works in Africa, largely because he has plunged himself into so much sadness. NBC's Brian Williams reports.

A 46-year-old rock star from Ireland stops at a small kiosk where a woman runs her own business, selling shares of call time on cell phones.

"This is what we Irishmen call the American dream," says Bono.

Bono likes to stop and point to what works on this continent, largely because he has plunged himself into so much sadness. 

At another stop, he visits the Ghana Stock Exchange, not quite the New York Stock Exchange's Big Board, but it’s a big and burgeoning development here, and they are justifiably proud of it.

"The regional vertical integration is very exciting for us," says Bono.

He is never greeted as just a musician. In fact, he is welcomed as something akin to a head of state. He sits with the presidents of the nations he visits, because they know it is his interest that is driving a massive global effort and pledges of billions of dollars.  He wants this story to be about more than him.

"I genuinely see myself as a traveling salesman," says Bono. "And like all salesman, I'm a bit of an opportunist. And I see Africa as a great opportunity.

Bono gave NBC News extraordinary access to his traveling operation, perhaps the largest Africa aid effort ever by any individual. On the flight from Mali to Ghana, he talked about his love of the place and the people.

"My goal, my job, is to put myself out of a job. So I can be in a rock band in all good conscience. And get on with my spoiled rotten rock star's life and drink a martini."

This effort, he says, is to use and leverage his own name, whether it's getting the G8 nations to give more, lobbying President Bush, partnering with evangelical Christians or getting Americans to care about the 9,000-plus people who die every day in Africa.

"The thing that's going to bring this home is Americans deciding that's what America is about," says Bono. "That's why I'm a fan of America. America is not just a country, it's an idea, and real Americans are getting busy."

How did he find President Bush as a man to do business with?

"He's been very honest in his business dealings with me," says Bono. "As has Secretary of State (Condoleezza) Rice, and we did an awful lot of work."

He says none of his barnstorming for the poor and sick has taken time away from his music. He says he's going back to Dublin and his U2 bandmates with up to eight new songs, one of which, he admitted on the plane, he wrote just last night. He shared the lyrics with us during the flight.

"There's an old midnight. Please, you're just on your knees. There was no price to pay. Thank you for the day."

"Don't know where it comes from," says Bono. "It interrupts you when you're trying to get your job done."