Mo Ibrahim: Why no one got a prize this year

Africa is full of hope and potential, maybe more so than any other continent

Share
Related Topics

Ten years ago, The Economist told its readership that Africa was "The Hopeless Continent". It expressed a sentiment that was pervasive – that Africa was economically backward and that its political leadership was at best corrupt and at worst murderous.

As the publication has been gracious enough to admit since, it was wrong. Many things have been extremely hopeful in Africa over the last decade. Growth has outpaced the rest of the world. World beating businesses have emerged and, given Africa's rich natural resources, financiers are finally starting to wake up to the investment potential of the continent.

Yet the concern about how well African countries are governed is real and remains. It was to promote excellent leadership and good governance that I established the Ibrahim Prize a few years ago. With the funds accumulated from investing in mobile telephony in Africa, my foundation was able to award the biggest annual prize in the world – worth $5m over 10 years – to former African leaders who have governed well, respected their constitution and left office with their country in better shape than they found it.

The first two years we had two winners – Joaquim Chissano, former president of Mozambique, and Festus Mogae, former president of Botswana. Little known outside Africa, both have been outstanding statesmen. By recognising and celebrating their leadership, the Foundation was able to show that the cartoon image of African leaders was out of date. This year, like last year, the prize committee – chaired by Kofi Annan and independent of the board – has not awarded the prize.

So does that mean that African leadership is hopeless? And has the Foundation established to celebrate good leadership in Africa ended up proving that good leadership does not exist?

No. Whether there is a winner of the prize or not, 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. So it is always likely that there will be years when no prize is awarded.

Many African countries are making great strides, not just economically, but also in terms of their governance. In addition to the prize, the Foundation publishes annually a rigorously researched index of performance of African countries. It is meant to equip citizens with as much information as possible about how their country is governed and how it compares to others.

The Foundation is anything but complacent about the standards of governance in Africa. It is clear that much more needs to be done. It is for that reason that the Foundation has decided to use the funds that would have been spent on the prize this year for a complementary initiative to promote good governance.

We are initiating the Ibrahim Leadership Fellowships, a selective programme designed to identify and prepare the next generation of African leaders by providing them with mentoring opportunities in key multilateral institutions. The programme will seek to identify talented professionals each year, serving in leading institutions whose objective is to improve the economic and social prospects of the people of Africa.

Far from being hopeless, Africa is full of hope and potential, maybe more so than any other continent. The challenge is to ensure that its potential is utilised. We will aim to play a part in that by equipping people with the information they need to assess the performance of their political leaders, by rewarding outstanding leadership; and by helping to equip some of the brightest and best with the skills they need to allow African countries to meet the expectations of their people. That is the real prize in the Hopeful Continent which the foundation is focused on.



The writer is founder and chairman of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst- Insurance

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst - Insurance ...

Recruitment Genius: Property Manager

£25000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent, growing Sales...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Multi-skilled graphic designer ...

Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solicitor

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solic...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A CCTV camera is seen in front of a large poster opposite in central London  

Home Office is creating more powers to turn everyone into suspects – but leave us no safer

Shami Chakrabarti
 

David Mellor has been exposed as an awful man, but should he have been?

Simon Kelner
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches