Liberia's ex-president Ellen Sirleaf Johnson has been awarded the 2017 Mo Ibrahim prize for Achievement in African Leadership, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation announced on Monday on its website.
Sirleaf is the fifth winner of the $5 million prize since it was first awarded in 2007 to Mozambique's former President Joaquim Chissano.
The Prize Committee praised her for leading Liberia as it recovered from civil war and "working tirelessly on behalf of the people of Liberia."
She was also praised for her efforts in reconciliation and nation building.
The committee works independently to select the winner.
Committee Chairman Dr Salim Ahmed Salim said: "Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took the helm of Liberia when it was completely destroyed by civil war and led a process of reconciliation that focussed on building a nation and its democratic institutions.
"Throughout her two terms in office, she worked tirelessly on behalf of the people of Liberia. Such a journey cannot be without some shortcomings and, today, Liberia continues to face many challenges. Nevertheless, during her twelve years in office, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf laid the foundations on which Liberia can now build."
The committee said her achievements have “inspired” millions of women and her success is a “testament to the power of exceptional leadership”.
After the prize was announced, Foundation Chairman Mo Ibrahim praised Sirleaf for guiding Liberia through a difficult period and ensuring peace and democracy.
"I am proud to see the first woman Ibrahim Laureate, and I hope Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will continue to inspire women in Africa and beyond," he added, according to reports on the Foundation's website.
Sirleaf won the 2006 Liberia presidential election to become the first woman elected as head of State in Africa.
She served two terms until 2018 when she handed over to democratically-elected president George Weah, a former international footballer.
She has been praised for efforts to unite the country after civil war and fighting for democracy and good governance in the country.
However, during her term in office, several government leaders were dogged with accusations of corruption.
And reports indicate that the country remains poor.
The Mo Ibrahim prize was launched in 2006, but it was not awarded in 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016 as the committee did not find a leader who met all the criteria for the prize.
Mozambique's Chissano was the inaugural winner in 2007. Other leaders awarded the prize are presidents Festus Mogae of Botswana (2008), Pedro Pires of Cape Verde (2011) and Hifikipunye Pohamba of Namibia (2014).
Nelson Mandela of South Africa was given an honorary award in 2007.
The Ibrahim Prize is a $5 million award paid over 10 years and $200,000 annually for life thereafter.
"The candidates for the Ibrahim Prize are all former African executive heads of state or government who have left office during the last three calendar years, having been democratically elected and served their constitutionally mandated term," the Mo Ibrahim website indicates.
The committee uses five criteria to select a winner. The winner has to be a former African head of state or government; has to have been democratically elected; and should have left office within the last three calendar years before the award.
The candidate also has to have served only the constitutionally mandated term and demonstrated exceptional leadership.
According to the Foundation, President Chissano received the inaugural Ibrahim Prize for bringing peace, reconciliation, stable democracy and economic progress to Mozambique following the civil war.
President Mandela received an honorary award for his personal sacrifice and dedicating himself to the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.
President Mogae was awarded the second Ibrahim Prize for his role in maintaining and consolidating Botswana’s stability and prosperity in the face of an HIV/Aids pandemic.
President Pires was awarded the 2011 Ibrahim Prize for his role in transforming Cape Verde into a model of democracy and stability, while President Pohamba was awarded the 2014 Ibrahim Prize for his role in forging national cohesion, reconciliation and economic development.