The Prize for African Leadership

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mo_ibrahim The Prize for African LeadershipDo you know Mo Ibrahim? You may know that he is a Sudanese philanthropist and business man. He is the founder of Celtel International, the global telecommunications giant.

He also founded the Mo Ibrahim Foundation in October 2006 to support good governance and great leadership in Africa. Dr. Ibrahim is the Chairman of the Board of his Foundation. Other Board members are Lord Simon Cairns, Mamphele Ramphele, Ketumile Masire, Mary Robinson, Salim Ahmed Salim, Nathalie Delapalme and Hadeel Ibrahim.

In 2007, the Foundation launched the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. The Prize is awarded to democratically elected former African Heads of State who have delivered security, health, education, rights, rule of law and economic development to their constituents and who have democratically transferred power to their successors in the last three years.According to Ibrahim, “Good governance is crucial.”

With a $5 million initial payment, plus $200,000 a year for life, the Prize is believed to be the world’s largest, exceeding the $1.3m Nobel Peace Prize. The winner of the Prize is chosen by an independent Prize Committee. The Committee is chaired by Salim Ahmed Salim, who took over from former chair Kofi Annan in 2011. Other members of the Committee are Festus Mogae, Martti Ahtisaari, Mohamed El Baradei, Mary Robinson, Aïcha Bah Diallo and Graca Machel. In 2007 the inaugural Prize was awarded to former President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, for “his role in leading Mozambique from conflict to peace and democracy.” Nelson Mandela was also made an Honorary Laureate in recognition of his extraordinary leadership qualities and achievements. In 2008, Festus Mogae, former leader of Botswana, won the Ibrahim Prize. In 2009 and 2010, the Prize Committee did not select a winner. The controversial decision came following the consideration of “credible candidates” and was interpreted by many as a laudable act in establishing a standard of credibility for the Prize.

In 2011 the Prize was awarded to Pedro Pires, former president of Cape Verde However, and quite dismally, the Prize committee once again declined to select a winner this year. Announcing the decision, on the 15th of October, Ibrahim said: “You make your bed, you have to lie on it. If we said we’re going to have a prize for exceptional leadership, we have to stick to that. We are not going to compromise. We are not just in the business of positive messages – we would lose our credibility,” the AFP news agency quotes him as saying.

“The prize committee reviewed a number of candidates but none met all of the criteria needed to win the prize,” said Salim Ahmed Salim, a committee member.

On a brighter note, the foundation announced a one-off extraordinary award to Archbishop Desmond Tutu in recognition of his lifelong commitment to speaking truth to power on the 4th of October, 2012.

The Award will be presented personally to Archbishop Tutu later this year in Dakar during the annual Ibrahim Discussion Forum, which focuses this year on youth, a topic close to the Archbishop’s heart. The Award is accompanied by a grant of US$ 1 million.

In making the Award, the Board of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation said: “This Special Award to Archbishop Desmond Tutu is motivated by the desire to make an extraordinary grant to an outstanding African civil society champion. Archbishop Desmond Tutu is and has throughout his life been one of Africa’s great voices for justice, freedom, democracy and responsible, responsive government. In everything he stands for, says, and does, he displays a consistent determination to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak the uncomfortable truth.”

This is obviously a clear call to African leaders. Of course, the Committee is not invulnerable to human error, but it still casts a cold shadow on our dear continent. Share your thoughts on this decision. Are there really no leaders in Africa who have fulfilled the required criteria?

© 2012 – 2017, Jennifer Nkem-Eneanya. All rights reserved.

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