No African Leader Worthy Enough?

Sudan-born telecom entrepreneur, Mo Ibrahim

Sudan-born telecom entrepreneur, Mo Ibrahim

For the third time in its six year history, the annual Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership was awarded to….(drum roll)…. no one. Folks are tweeting and blogging about it. Ibrahim himself, the Sudan-born billionaire entrepreneur said he does not want to compromise. He said the prize would “lose its credibility” if it were awarded to an undeserving winner. I have to agree with Ibrahim.

“If we said we’re going to have a prize for exceptional leadership, we have to stick to that,” Ibrahim reportedly said.

That means no lowering of standards or bending the criteria, which looks at a candidate’s record of good governance. So is no former African Executive Head of State or Government worthy enough to receive what is, at $5m (USD), the world’s largest annually awarded individual prize? By the way, the $5 million is paid over 10 years. Thereafter, the winner receives $200,000 annually, for life.

Last year, former Cape Verde President Pedro Verona Pires won the award. There was no winner in 2009 and 2010.

Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea

Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea

The prize is available to former democratically-elected African leaders who spurred economic progress, excelled in office and stepped down after serving his/her constitutionally mandated term. But as history has revealed, many African leaders tend to stay in office, indefinitely. “Presidents for Life,” as the expression goes.  Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe has been the  president for more than 30 years. The world’s longest serving leader, is an African…he’s from Equatorial Guinea, sub-Saharan Africa’s third largest oil producer. His name is Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the strongman of a repressive regime viewed as massively corrupt.

Some have expressed their dismay that the committee found no one, in all of Africa’s 54 countries to award. But, Ibrahim expressed a rather interesting sentiment to defend the prize committee’s decision and perhaps to encourage Africans.

“If this prize was offered for any other continent, do you think we would have come up with three Asian winners in the last six years or three European winners in the last six years? I don’t think so (sic),” Ibrahim said.

Furthermore, in its annual study, the Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) found that four of Africa’s major players –South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt — have declined in good governance since 2006.

Here’s a story from the GlobalPost:

No winner of 2012 Mo Ibrahim prize for African leadership


JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — There is no winner of the 2012 Mo Ibrahim prize for African leadership.

The $5-million prize, established by Sudan-born telecom entrepreneur Mo Ibrahim, is supposed to be awarded each year to a democratically elected African leader who showed excellent leadership and a commitment to good governance, and who has voluntarily left office.

But in six years of the prize, there have been only three winners. This year the prize committee again said no candidate had met all of the tough criteria.

“If we say, ‘we’re going to have a prize for exceptional leadership,’ we have to stick to that. We are not going to compromise,” Ibrahim said, announcing the news at a press conference in London.

“We’re not saying, every year we have to find somebody,” he added.

The $5-million award is given over 10 years followed by $200,000 a year for life.

The monetary award serves to encourage leaders of African countries to leave office after their terms expire, and build positive legacies on the continent instead of trying to hang onto power.

Previous winners of the prize include Botswana’s President Festus Mogae and Mozambique’s Joaquim Chissano.

Cape Verde’s former president, Pedro Verona Pires, won the 2011 prize after a two-year drought.

The prize committee last year hailed Pires’ role in transforming Cape Verde, an archipelago of 500,000 people off West Africa and a former Portuguese colony, from single-party autocracy to multi-party democracy.

Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and a member of the Ibrahim foundation’s board, said it was “inspiring” that three winners had been found.

“Speaking as a European, I don’t think in six years we would necessarily have three European leaders who would qualify,” she said during the announcement Monday.

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