It has recently been announced that the Mo Ibrahim Award for excellent African leadership will go unclaimed in 2012. Why, you ask? As Ibrahim puts it, only those leaders who deserve it will receive it.
Estimated to be worth more than $1.8 billion, Ibrahim is one of Britain’s most affluent telecommunications businessmen, linked to Britain’s Telecom and Africa’s Celtel. Although he is now a permanent resident in Britain, the billionaire’s home of north Sudan has influenced his humanitarian undertakings in the recent years. His most notable work is that of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation which contributes charitable funds to African development across the entirety of the continent. Its most famous yearly donation is called the Ibrahim Prize.
Based upon Ibrahim’s index system which awards African leaders “points” for raising standards of living, democratic governing, and a timely abdication of office, government officials are essentially competing to win the offer of an annual $5 million, through their goal-oriented governing styles. The hope is to change African leaders’ notoriously undemocratic practices by ensuring that these men (many who fear a life of poverty upon giving up political power, money, and prestige) gain a reward for their beneficial governance, both during and after they leave office. However, with the recent announcement that none have succeeded this year, one wonders if African leaders have forgotten about this extra “chunk of change” and, indeed, how to govern.
To claim that many African leaders have had a somewhat shady history, is an understatement, what with an entire myriad of conflicts ranging from colonialism to decolonization, revolution to genocide. It is against these incidences that the Ibrahim award aspires to make changes. With Africa’s reputation of untrustworthy leaders, corruption, and crime, Ibrahim has never demanded perfection; rather, an effort towards advancement is asked for.
Moreover, the baseline ideal for the yearly award is improvement. The problem is, with no winner this year, perhaps African politics are no longer improving; and for the international system as a whole, that does not bode well. Therefore, the lingering question is this: what has happened amongst Africa’s 53 countries that have warranted disqualification in each and every one of them?
Stagnation is the word on the lips of many political analysts as they observe 2012’s lack of one “good African leader”. For with no winner, Ibrahim effectively communicates to the world that Africa is the same as ever. There is no improvement, no motivation, and no future. As a developing region of the globe, this beneficial change is key in reaching both the economic and political powers of European and American states. If Africa cannot improve to the point of rivaling Western powers, how can it compete in our globalized world? Therefore, lacking a $5 million prizewinner is one thing; losing faith in an entire continent is another.
Photo credit: World economic forum, wiki commons