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Can a prize for good governance make a difference ?

Last Updated: 11/7/2006 10:15:09 AM

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Sudanese Telecommunications billionaire Mo Ibrahim offers a prize to African leaders to reward good governance.....

Can a prize for good governance change Africa's leadership woes?

Mo Ibrahim is one of Africa's most successful business leaders. The 60 years Sudanese telecommunications entrepreneur founded Celtel International which evolved into a multinational mobile phone giant eventually bought in 2005 for US$4.3 billion by the Kuwaiti telecommunications conglomerate MTC. Mo Ibrahim is still active in the telecommunication field but has also turned his considerable energies to a problem closer to his heart, leadership in Africa.

For most Africans the catalogue of woes that have befallen the continent can be chalked down to one thing - Poor Leadership - in the few examples of African countries that have defied this trend like Botswana, the quality of leadership is head and shoulders above what pertains elsewhere.

Like many Mo Ibrahim has also picked up on this theme and recently proposed a somewhat unique approach to tackling this issue. The Mo Ibrahim Foundation set up this year has established two major new initiatives in support of better governance in sub-Saharan Africa. The Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership will recognise former executive Heads of State or Government who have demonstrated exemplary leadership. The Ibrahim Index for African Governance, which has been developed in conjunction with the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, is a comprehensive ranking of sub-Saharan African countries according to governance quality.

The Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, will be awarded annually to former executive Heads of state and government in sub Saharan Africa, and will be an award of US$500,000 per annum for a period of ten years, and US$200,000 annually thereafter. An optional facility of up to US$200,000 annually, to support suitable post-office initiatives and activities by the winner, may be offered at the Foundation's discretion.

This is on the surface a commendable initiative but can it make a change? For Africans leaders that are bent on looting their national treasuries US$5 million pales into insignificance in comparison to say the billions of dollars Nigeria's Sanni Abach looted. Is the prize patronizing to the leaders who are trying to make a change? Most importantly can it and will it make a difference?


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