Singer John Legend on Mission in Africa

ABC's Dana Hughes sat down with singer to talk about his involvement in Africa.

ByABC News
October 8, 2007, 6:54 AM

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct. 8, 2007— -- Forget the bling, the cars and the girls normally seen in music videos. R&B singer John Legend is shooting the video for his next single, "Show Me," in Zanzibar, Tanzania, a remote island in East Africa.

But he didn't travel all the way from New York for just a video shoot. The trip is actually for Legend's Show Me Campaign, an organization aimed at eradicating extreme poverty in villages across Africa.

The Grammy winner was moved to action after reading "The End of Poverty" by economist Jeffrey Sachs. He says the book's focus on how Africa needs infrastructure and not just aid made sense to him.

"It seemed like such a practical and smart approach to adjusting extreme poverty," said Legend.

Now he has teamed up with Sachs' poverty-fighting organization, Millennium Promise, to work in some of the most destitute African villages. The Show Me Campaign is based on Millennium Promise's philosophy integrating development programs that address problems ranging from proper hygiene, to education, to farming techniques, to clean drinking water. They're problems that, when compounded, lead to what Legend calls "a poverty trap."

"The idea is to not just address one problem, but to be more comprehensive and address all the issues that make [a village] stagnant," said Legend.

Millennium Promise already has pilot programs in villages in Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana, where Legend visited last year. On this trip he is visiting villages in Tanzania for the Show Me Campaign, which is still in its infant stages.

"Our specific goal is to fund the village in Tanzania and others that we're visiting," he said, "and the program is a five-year program to raise $1.5 million to fund it, and we've already raised a few hundred thousand dollars."

The project has been funded with income from charity events and online donations from fans.

Legend says the money will flow to the right resources.

"It doesn't give cash," he said. "It does things like buy fertilizer, or set up Internet connections or buy malaria bed nets or have scientists come in and help them clean their drinking water and make sure it's healthy."

He says giving services rather than cash leaves less room for corruption. "It's very traceable and the results have been very good," said Legend.