The Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership was started by Dr Mohammed Ibrahim himself. It is part of one of the four fundamental pillars of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation; Ibrahim Index of African Governance, Ibrahim Forum, and Fellowships and Scholarships. The Prize specifically is awarded to former African heads of state or government who promote security, health, education and economic development. Most importantly, they must democratically transfer power to their successor. Beyond the prestige and glamour of the prize, recipients also receive $5 Million over ten years plus $200,000 a year thereafter for life. Laureates of the prize include former president Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique in 2007, former president Festus Mogae of Bostwana in 2008, and former president Pedro Pires of Cape Verde in 2011.
In the years of 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013 no recipients were selected. The great Dr who made his billions in the telecommunication industry said that “the purpose of the Foundation is to challenge those in Africa and the world to debate what constitutes excellence in leadership. The standards set for the prize are high and the number of eligible candidates small…..” I applaud his way of thinking and his clearly set out goals. For the first time in Africa, a credible institution chaired by Africans is setting high standards for the continent to reach. African leaders and/or populations can no longer claim racism or nepotism as an excuse for the lack of prestige that is faced by former African Heads of State. It is internationally recognized and internationally respected; it is showing African leaders (even those not eligible for the prize) that work does not stop once one leaves office. It is demonstrating that as an African leader retirement does not simply mean sitting at home and waiting for a check from tax payers at the end of the month.
I put forth the question, is it worth it or not?Personally I feel that any sort of initiative that inspires even an ounce of moral obligation in our leaders to do good should welcomed, with a marching band and a parade! Despite that, I think the narrow selection criteria kind of ruins it for me. There are so many African leaders who have done amazing things for the continent and the world as a whole who will never be able to receive the prize. Examples are Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mohammed Elbaradai, Boutros Boutros Ghali, just to name a few. These are exceptional African leaders who would use the money to further help the continent. Additionally, as time has shown us African leaders especially heads of state (Museveni, Mugabe, Bashir all come to mind) will do what they want, when they want no matter what anyone says or does. Evidence of this is clear at the recent AU summit where most African Heads of State bashed the ICC and threatened to pull out. The creation of the prize is not going to change them, so why force issues? Why not open the selection to people who would actually fulfil the requirements and further help the continent? After all, these recipients receive a hefty government pension anyway !
It is a good initiative that is unquestionable. But in conclusion, I think it is quite visibly misplaced.