Mo Ibrahim Award Needs Fine Tuning

Published on 16th October 2012

No African leader qualified for the $5-million 2012 Mo Ibrahim prize for African leadership awarded each year to a democratically elected African leader who exhibits positive leadership and good governance legacies. Mo ought to be lauded for not bending the rules by disbursing the prize as routine. African leaders ought to conduct a soul search, on the other hand, for failing to clinch the coveted prize.

Mo Ibrahim ought to make his prize more relevant and effective by considering a number of factors. First, since leaders can make cheap and risk-free money as incumbent presidents and are better off plundering their economies and hanging to power to avoid prosecution, they can’t bank their hopes on an uncertain award. Second, targeting incumbent presidents and those that have left office in the last three years discourages presidents who leave office after implementing  large-scale investments  that take say, ten years to generate benefits, for by the time it matures, the initiators are not legible for the award. Third, focussing the prize on strengthening governance institutions as opposed to enriching individual presidents would make it more effective. Mo can, for example, support the civil society organizations to play their role as public watchdogs. Fourth, while some African countries would desire to pursue good governance, they are held captive by external interest dictates from developed countries. How Mo will address this is a subject of conjecture.

While there is no denying that Mo is on track, rethinking the prize parameters and popularizing it will make it more effective.

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