No winner for $5m African leader prize, again

Cash prize is offered annually for an African leader who performs well in office and then steps down democratically.

Last Modified: 14 Oct 2013 17:32
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A foundation that offers a $5m prize to leaders of African countries who excel in office and then step down when they are supposed to has declined to give the award for the second straight year.

Salim Ahmed Salim, who chaired the prize committee for the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, said the committee considered every African head of state or government who retired in the last three years. Committee member Aicha Bah Diallo said the group looked "for excellence in governance but in leadership also".

The award, created by Sudanese-born billionaire Mo Ibrahim in 2007, goes to a democratically-elected African leader who has served their mandated term and left office in the three-year period.

The cash prize has been awarded three times in its seven-year history. Former Cape Verde President Pedro Verona Pires won in 2011, Festus Mogae of Botswana won in 2008, and Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique won in 2007.

No award was given in 2009, 2010 and 2012.

An excellent leader

Former Irish president Mary Robinson, who is on the foundation board,  defended the decision not to award the prize and questioned how often such a  prize would have been awarded in Europe.

"We couldn't find a leader of that excellence" they were looking for, Robinson said.

"We didn't ever expect that we would award it every year."

Mo Ibrahim Prize
2007: Joaquim Chissano (Mozambique)
2008: Festus Mogae (Botswana) 
2009: not awarded
2010: not awarded
2011: Pedro Verona Pires (Cape Verde)
2012: not awarded

The London-based foundation also publishes the Ibrahim Index of African Governance, ranking 52 countries according to 94 indicators grouped under safety and the rule of law, participation and human rights, sustainable economic opportunity and human development.

The index found that 94 percent of Africa's population lives in countries
that have witnessed an overall improvement in governance since 2000.

The top five countries stayed the same, with Mauritius topping the index
with a score of 83 out of 100. Botswana (78) has overtaken Cape Verde (77),
ahead of the Seychelles (75) and South Africa (71).

Somalia stayed at the bottom with a score of just eight, way behind Democratic Republic of Congo (31), Eritrea (32), Central African Republic (33) and Chad (33).

Responding to critics who say the Foundation was painting a poor image of Africa by not awarding the prize annually, Ibrahim said that the prize honoured excellence and not just impressive feats in office.

"Some people say we are giving a negative message (about Africa), but we are not just in the business of positive messages – we would lose our credibility," he said.

But critics say the strict conditions of the award warrant a rethink.

South Africa's Daily Maverick on Monday argued that conditions for the prize ought to be adjusted, to include current presidents or other leaders outside politics.

"There would be plenty of candidates for such an award, because - as the Foundation well knows, and is trying so hard to point out - there is no shortage of good African leaders. It’s just that most of them don’t become presidents," the online magazine said.

The award's $5m sum is paid over 10 years and recipients then get another $200,000 annually for life. There is a further $200,000 per year available for a decade for causes backed by the winners. 


Al Jazeera and agencies
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