The London-based Mo Ibrahim Foundation has announced that for the third time in four years it will not award its annual prize for excellence in African leadership because no one met the criteria.
Created by Sudan-born billionaire Mo Ibrahim, the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership recognizes a former African head of state who has demonstrated leadership that improves the prospects of people on the continent. To be eligible, candidates for the prize must have been democratically elected to office and left that office of their own accord within the last three years. Recipients of the prize receive $5 million over ten years and $200,000 annually for life thereafter. In making the announcement, the foundation, which chose not to award the prize in 2009 and 2010, said it would not compromise on its criteria for the prize. "If we said we're going to have a prize for exceptional leadership, we have to stick to that," said Ibrahim. "We are not just in the business of positive messages — we would lose our credibility."
The prize was awarded to Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique in 2007, Festus Gontebanye Mogae of Botswana in 2008, and Pedro Pires of Cape Verde in 2011. In addition, former South African president Nelson Mandela was named an honorary laureate in 2007, while Archbishop Desmond Tutu received a special $1 million award earlier this month for "speaking truth to power."
As measured by the foundation's recently released Ibrahim Index, which uses eighty-eight criteria to assess the performance of fifty-two African countries, governance on the continent has improved since 2000, especially in the fields of health and gender. However, many of the continent's regional powerhouses — including Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa — have lagged in other areas since 2006.
"In general, we see positive development in Africa," said Ibrahim. "The economy is moving forward relentlessly. Education and health [are] improving; there is great development there. Gender issues are improving....We see, unfortunately, a little bit of decline in the issues of human rights and participation. Economic development does not give us a reason to be complacent about that."