Judges Withhold African Leadership Prize For Second Year


Judges for the multi-million-dollar Mo Ibrahim Prize for excellence in African leadership on Sunday withheld the award for the second year running.

“The standards set for the prize winner are high, and the number of potential candidates each year is small,” said prize founder and chairman Mo Ibrahim, a Sudanese-born businessman.

“So it is likely that there will be years when no prize is awarded.”

The award, handed out by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation which was set up in 2006, is worth five million dollars (four million euros, 3.5 million pounds) over 10 years and thereafter 200,000 dollars a year.

But Ibrahim also said his foundation which funds the award would continue to find ways to “support great leadership” in Africa, and announced a new series of fellowships to pick out and prepare future leaders on the continent.

Last year, the prize committee chaired by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan said it had considered some credible candidates but could not select a winner.

Former leaders in the running for the prize in 2009 included South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki and Nigeria’s Olusegun Obasanjo.

Ibrahim, who made his fortune through African telecoms company Celtel, said on Sunday no new candidates had emerged this year.

The prize goes to a democratically elected former leader from a sub-Saharan African country who has left office in the last three years after serving their term within the limits set by the country’s constitution.

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Previous recipients include Joaquim Chissano, former president of Mozambique, and former Botswana president Festus Mogae. South African anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela was made an honorary laureate in 2007.

Ibrahim said that despite the lack of a suitable recipient for the prize, his eponymous foundation would keep working to boost good governance in Africa.

“Many African countries are making great strides not just economically, but also in terms of their governance,” he said, noting that the foundation’s governance index, based on 80 criteria, showed rising standards across the continent.

Announcing the launch of the Ibrahim Leadership Fellowships, the entrepreneur said it was necessary to do more to promote the foundation’s aim of improving governance in Africa.

The new programme would prepare future African leaders by giving them the chance to work at institutions whose work focused on the continent, said Ibrahim.

“The foundation is currently working with pan-African organisations to design the fellowships,” he said, adding details would be announced later this year and the programme was expected to start next year.

“There are many ways to support great leadership. The prize is one such way, the fellowships will be another.”

As well as Annan, the foundation’s prize committee includes former Finnish president and Nobel peace laureate Martti Ahtisaari and Mohamed ElBaradei, also a Nobel peace laureate and ex-head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog.

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