The Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which annually hands out a $5 million prize for African good governance, has said it could not find anyone to award this year.
The prize committee had "considered some credible candidates" but could not select a winner, Ketumile Masire, the former president of Botswana, said on Monday.
He said the foundation "noted the progress made with governance in some African countries, while noticing with concern recent setbacks in other countries".
The board, which is independent from the prize-giving committee, said it could not give the reasons why it did not select someone because of the confidential terms of the decision-making process.
The Mo Ibrahim Prize for achievement in African leadership is awarded to a democratically elected former African head of state or government who has left office in the past three years.
Mo Ibrahim, a Sudan-born billionaire who created the prize in 2007, said the foundation "entirely respects" the committee's decision while insisting that Africa was "moving forward in the area of governance".
"If this credible committee says there is no winner this year, then I'm afraid there's no winner this year," he told Al Jazeera.
"I am not privy to the conversation, I don't know on what basis they decided not to award it this year, and I don't want to know. Their deliberation is confidential."
The prize is described by organisers as the largest individual annual award in the world, with the winner receiving $5 million plus $200,000 a year for life.
Recession link denied
Earlier, addressing a news conference in London's City Hall, Ibrahim denied suggestions that the decision not to award the prize was linked to the world financial crisis.
"The prize committee do not pay any attention to my bank statement," he said.
"This is an award for excellence. Jury meets and they set the bar some way and decide. There's no way to know where the bar was set."
Ibrahim stressed that the foundation had always said there might be years when the prize was not awarded.
The past recipients are Joaquim Chissano, former Mozambican president, and Festus Gontebanye Mogae, Botswana's former president.
Nelson Mandela, the former South African president and anti-apartheid icon, is an honorary laureate.