No winner for Mo Ibrahim Sh500m prize for African leadership

Thursday June 16 2016

Mo Ibrahim, the chairman of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which says there is no suitable winner, again, for its Africa annual leadership excellence prize. AFP PHOTO | CARL COURT


The Mo Ibrahim Foundation says there is no suitable winner, again, for its Africa annual leadership excellence awards.

On Thursday, the foundation said none of the former African heads of State and government met the criteria for the 2015 Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership.

It means that recently retired presidents like Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, Armando Guebuza of Mozambique and Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, failed to prove they had left a legacy worth rewarding.

Set up by Sudanese-British tycoon Mo Ibrahim in 2006, the Ibrahim Prize is given based on the review of a special committee that includes former diplomats, Nobel laureates, business leaders and democracy activists.

This year’s prize committee was chaired by former Tanzania prime minister Salim Ahmed Salim.

The criteria used by the committee to select a winner include the requirement that all eligible contenders be former heads of State or government who left office in the previous three years.


The leaders should have been democratically elected, served their constitutionally allowed terms and demonstrated exceptional leadership.

In a statement Thursday, Mr Ibrahim, the chairman of the foundation, said he agrees with the verdict of the committee.

“The Board respects the decision of the independent prize committee. When we launched the prize ten years ago, we deliberately set a very high bar.

“We want the prize to shine a spotlight on outstanding leadership to provide role models right across society, as well as supporting Laureates to continue to serve the continent by sharing their wisdom and experience,” he said.

Since 2006, the Ibrahim Prize has been awarded four times.


The last winner, for the 2014 edition, was former Namibia President Hifikepunye Pohamba, whom Dr Salim described then as having “demonstrated sound and wise leadership" while maintaining "his humility throughout his Presidency.”

Other winners include former Cape Verde President Pedro Pires (2011), President Festus Mogae of Botswana (2008) and President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique (2007). Nelson Mandela was the inaugural Honorary Laureate in 2007.

There were no winners in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013.

But the foundation said on Thursday that the lack of winners last year is more indicative of the tough eligibility conditions rather than a sign of poor leadership on the continent.

“The decision by the prize committee is a reflection of the exceptionally high bar set for potential winners rather than any disappointment with the overall quality of leadership on our continent.

“The tough criteria were deliberately set to ensure only the most outstanding would be considered,” said Sophie Masipa, head of communication at the foundation.

Winners of the award receive about $5 million (Sh500 million) spread over a decade and a further $200,000 annually for the rest of their lives.