Prize for best African leader

One of Africa’s most successful entrepreneurs, Dr. Mo Ibrahim, has set up a foundation and announced a $5 Million prize for the most effective, least corrupt, and all around best-of-the-best African leader. (HT to BRE)

In an interview with the Financial Times newspaper, Mr Ibrahim, 60, said leaders had no life after office.

“Suddenly all the mansions, cars, food, wine is withdrawn. Some find it difficult to rent a house in the capital. That incites corruption; it incites people to cling to power.

“The prize will offer essentially good people, who may be wavering, the chance to opt for the good life after office,” said Mr Ibrahim.

Prize offered to Africa’s leaders, BBC News, 26 October 2006

Pretty clever. Pay them to be good. I think that, in general, politicians are underpaid – and not just in Africa. I am not so naive to think that money is a cure-all for corruption. But if the salaries of public office were halfway competitive with the industry, there’d be fewer nutcases running for office. OK – nevermind that – not fewer nutcases, just more halfway sane, pragmatic technocrats.

In Africa this problem is much worse. Not only is politics extremely dangerous in some parts, but there is also very little in terms of retirement benefits, beyond what you can squirrel away during your time in office. That’s not a situation that provides a lot of incentive to most sane, intelligent people to chose public office as a career.

This initiative deserves the spotlight also because it highlights the key problem Africa faces: leadership, and the lack thereof. Just the other day I asked a Togolese friend “Mon frère, what is Africa’s biggest problem?” I explained that if he could solve one problem on the continent, what would it be? Malaria? AIDS? Hunger? Poverty? Celebrity adoptions?

Leadership!” He said. Without decent leaders democracy cannot work. Without democracy, there cannot be much progress, social or economic. Without progress we can never solve poverty, hunger and the public health crises. And there will always be another genocide somewhere.

This is why I am skeptical about those “big money” campaigns by Americans and Europeans to raise huge sums for development aid for Africa. It’s like they are refueling and changing the tires on a racecar that’s going the wrong way on the track because the driver is drunk. Dr Ibrahim says: let’s reward the driver who can drive well! Congratulations!

See Jewels in the Jungle for more info.

2 Responses to “Prize for best African leader”

  1. Black River Eagle Says:

    A really fine post about Dr. Mo Ibrahim and the African Leadership Achievement Award, Jürgen. It is interesting to read that more and more African people recognize that poor leadership is at least partly to blame for their miserable plight. Good governance is very important, from the bottom up and the top down in any political administration.

    The question of how best to use financial aid to help alleviate poverty and disease in the developing world is very complex and I too sometimes get confused. I think that we should look at initiatives such as Live8 in the Summer of 2005 and campaigns i.e. Make Poverty History and ONE as essential building blocks in the global efforts to address this growing crisis.

    A combination of many efforts on a variety of fronts is what is really needed urgently to alleviate extreme poverty around the world. I am pleased to see people from nations such as the U.S.A. and the U.K. take the lead in this fight. If we could only get more people from other rich nations to come onboard in larger numbers, Make Povert History could become a real political juggernaut.

  2. Agbessi Says:

    I like the analogy you made at the end of your post. It may sound funny but that’s exactly what’s going in Africa. The drivers ( the leaders in reality) are drunk in terms of they’re not really concerned about how really to use the money they get in the appropriate way but rather how to keep some if not all for themselves and their life of luxury after they leave office.
    When we say the problem in africa and in a country like Togo is leadership understand it this way: a country like Togo with its natural resources like phosphates and its well located port can according to estimates support its 5 million inhabitants even those who are not working, but Togo now cannot even pay those who are working! And yesterday I was watching news on TV5 (a french TV) and they said that there’s an electric dam in Congo (DRC) that could provide elctricity to all Africa because it is the second largest dam from natural water source in the world but because of the war and no governannce that dam can’t even provide electricity to villages around the location of this dam. A country like Congo has immense natural resources as much as the 40-year dictator who was chased out of power before all this trouble started there was a billionnaire with mansions on the Cote d’Azur in France and other places and one the richest in Africa and the world at the time. So of course we need money in Africa because there’s poverty but the most important thing we should think about when we want to give that money is how to give it so that the population can actually benefit from this. And the solution to that is good leadership in Africa, leaders maybe from the younger generation more conscientious and more knowledgeable about democracy and its big advantages. And also as Jurgen suggested a population that is educated about democracy and how to make the right choice in elections. More on this later.