Message for African leaders: Annual $5 million African prize is a 'developmental project', says Sudanese born British billionaire Dr Mo Ibrahim
"African prize is a ’developmental project’, says Sudanese Billionaire"- - -
Oct 27, 2006 (LONDON) — A Sudanese billionaire who is offering a $5 million prize to an African head of state who significantly improves the lives of citizens said Friday the money is intended as ’’a developmental project, not a gravy train."
Mohamed Fatehi (Mo) Ibrahim acknowledged critics’ comments that his money could go directly to poverty-stricken Africans. But without good governance, he argued, there is no way to ensure it is distributed fairly and effectively.
’’I’m not squandering money,’’ Ibrahim said in an interview Friday.
The prize is the largest of its kind, surpassing the $1.4 million Nobel Peace Prize.
’’If you write a good novel, or a chemistry paper, you win the Nobel Prize,’’ Ibrahim said. ’’If we have a leader take 4 or 5 million people out of poverty, this is a much greater achievement.’’
Ibrahim hopes to award the prize annually to an African head of state who improves the standard of living among ordinary citizens, and who does not try to cling to power on a continent where military dictators and presidents for life have long held sway. If no candidate meets the criteria, no prize will be given. The first prize was scheduled to be awarded late next year.
Board members of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation for African Development include Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and U.N. high commissioner for human rights, and Salim Salim, a Tanzanian diplomat and former leader of the Organization of African Unity.
’’The prize is not intended for the thief or the corrupt, it is for those that serve their people,’’ Salim said.
But some are concerned that offering a prize for good governance is not the best way to help Africa. With millions in poverty, why should more money go to the most advantaged of African society, asked John Larvie of the Center for Democratic Development, a think tank in Ghana.
’’Though prize money for a well-behaved president may be attractive to the office- holders, what good would that do to the general welfare and democratic development of the people and the country as a whole?’’ he asked.
Others argue that the prize will not influence African leaders’ behavior, particularly when it comes to holding on to power. Ibrahim designed the prize in part to address reluctance to leave office. Winners receive $5 million spread over 10 years after they leave office. If they are still living when the initial prize is exhausted, they will receive another $200,000 annually until they die.
’’Money is not an issue because the corruption in this country means they can systematically syphon off funds throughout their rule,’’ Geoffrey Rwakaeale, National Coordinator for the Anti-Corruption Coalition of Uganda, said in Kampala, Uganda. ’’They (African leaders) have money. It is their safety they are worried about.’’
Ibrahim said his prize may be too small to influence the corrupt. But he said it would reward leaders trying to do the right thing, and sway those who are wavering.
The idea of an award for results comes from the business world, said Ibrahim, who founded Celtel International, an African cell phone network. He sold Celtel for $3.3 billion in 2005.
’’As an engineer, as a businessman, I found performance measurement is normal. Everyone has performance related pay,’’ Ibrahim said. ’’We’re just applying that to governance.’’
The prize will be awarded based on criteria developed by Robert Rotberg, a professor at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government who said he will rate security, rule of law, economic opportunity, political freedom, health service, education system, infrastructure, and civil society.
’’They will be measured by outcome, not input or budget, because in the developing world, what goes in doesn’t always come out,’’ Rotberg said Friday in a panel discussion at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. (AP)
Yesterday, I posted news here about Dr Ibrahim's interest in investing in Ethiopia (see footnote at Sudan Watch post, October 05 2008, re: Sudanese born billionaire entrepreneur Dr Mo Ibrahim is named as Britain's most powerful black man).
Soon, I hope to catch up on posting a backlog of news for Ethiopia Watch, mostly re commercial/joint ventures starting up in Ethiopia. Lately, it seems as though the Ethiopian's are attracting publicity for making good stuff happen in their country. Maybe their president could be eligible for a $5M prize? According to the above report, the prize is awarded annually and the first one was scheduled to be awarded in 2007. Must find out what's happened.