Namibia’s President has been named the winner of the Mo Ibrahim African Leadership award in 2014, edging out former President Mwai Kibaki.
The Namibian leader, Mr Hefikepunye Pohamba, was picked for the award, which comes with a $5 million (Sh460m) cash prize for his exemplary performance.
His term expired in December last year but he is yet to hand over the mantle because the new president has not been sworn in.
The chairman of the prize committee, Mr Salim Ahmed Salim, said the Namibian President edged out Mr Kibaki and other leaders who have left office over the past three years.
“I can assure you President Kibaki was one of those we considered but he was beaten to the prize,” said Mr Salim, the former secretary-general of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), now known as the African Union.
Having handed over power peacefully, introduced programmes like the free primary education and developed mega infrastructure projects, expectations were high that Mr Kibaki would win the prize.
However, he was beaten by Mr Pohamba, who has kept a low profile throughout his decade in leadership, and won ,despite being the leader of one of the youngest democracies in Africa.
Mr Pohamba won the hearts of the prize committee for transformations he made in his country within a short time, and by upholding good governance, good leadership and excellence.
“President Pohamba’s focus in forging national cohesion and reconciliation at a key stage in Namibia’s consolidation of democracy and social and economic development impressed the prize committee. His ability to command confidence and trust of the people is exemplary.
During the decade of his presidential mandate, he demonstrated sound and wise leadership. Notably, he maintained his humility throughout the presidency,” noted the committee.
The Sh460m will be paid over 10 years and thereafter $200,000 paid to him annually for a lifetime.
The founder and chairman of the foundation, Mr Mo Ibrahim, said the leader of the South African country, was a role model for the kind of leadership Africa requires to progress.
“Africa is not only about those who have been bad, such as Mobutu Seseseko and the rest. There are leaders who are quite humble and who continue to make great sacrifices for their people,” he said.
Mr Salim said Namibia had made progress in offering free primary education, lowering the rate of HIV/Aids infection and improving gender parity in leadership.
He noted that 48 per cent of MPs are women.
However, there are still challenges like widening economic and social inequality.
Another member of the committee, former South African First Lady Graca Machel, said the award of the prize to Mr Pohamba was an indication that African leaders can make progress despite challenges facing their countries.
“The award does not seek to recognise perfect leadership, but leaders who have made some efforts to transform the lives of their people through good governance, leadership and excellence,” she said.
Other past winners of the award include former Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano, (2007) Festus Mogae of Botswana (2008) and Pedro Pires of Cape Verde (2011).
Former South African President Nelson Mandela was also made the inaugural honorary winner in 2007.
However, there were no winners in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013, after the committee found no worthy winner, after what they termed as an in-depth review.
The award, founded by Sudanese-British telecoms entrepreneur and billionaire Mo Ibrahim, is given to a democratically-elected former head of state who left office in the previous three years and who demonstrated exceptional leadership while abiding by constitutional term limits.