Outgoing Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba has been announced as the winner of the Mo Ibrahim award for African leadership - a lucrative prize worth millions of dollars.

Pohamba was announced as the winner of the award at a ceremony in Nairobi on Monday. The award is given out by the foundation of Mohamed "Mo" Ibrahim, a Sudanese-British former mobile communications entrepreneur and billionaire.

According to the Mo Ibrahim Foundation's website: "The Ibrahim Prize recognises and celebrates African leaders who have developed their countries, lifted people out of poverty and paved the way for sustainable and equitable prosperity."

The award - worth $5m over 10 years and then $200,000 per year thereafter - is only open to former African executive heads of state or government who have left office in the last three years after being democratically elected.

They also must have served their constitutionally mandated term and demonstrated exceptional leadership, the foundation's website says.

Pohamba became the first winner of the award since Cape Verde's ex-President Pedro De Verona Rodrigues Pires won in 2011.

Only five people have ever won the award, including the late former South African President Nelson Mandela, who was given an honorary prize.

'Tough prize to win'

Asked why so few African leaders had won the prize since its inception in 2007, Ibrahim told Al Jazeera on Monday that his foundation was not willing to lower its standards.

"I think [Pohamba] gave us a wonderful example of a leader who came in democratically and moved his country forward, improved education ... and paid attention to social cohesion," Ibrahim said.

"It is a prize for excellence in leadership. We are not lowering our standards.

"If this prize was offered to European presidents and leaders, how many ... would have won this prize in the last eight years?"

Ibrahim founded mobile phone company Celtel, which he sold in 2005 for $3.4bn.

He then set up the Mo Ibrahim Foundation to encourage better governance in Africa, as well as creating the Mo Ibrahim Index, to evaluate nations' performance in categories such as human rights, development and the rule of law.

Referring to the index, the foundation said that Pohamba ticked nearly all the boxes of excellence.

Pohamba will leave office later this month after serving two five-year terms.

Source: Al Jazeera