UK-based Sudanese businessman Mo Ibrahim has offered an annual $5m prize to African leaders who deliver security, health, education and economic development to their people while in office.
To qualify in addition to the above, a leader has to have democratically transferred power to his successor.
The award will be the world’s richest prize and will be spread over 10 years, thereafter the winning leader will get a $200,000 annual pension for life.
Former presidents Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Bill Clinton of the US, UN secretary General Kofi Anan and UK Premier Tony Blair have lent their backing to the award.
The rationale behind Ibrahim’s philanthropy is that leaders are corrupt and cling on to power because outside office they can not sustain themselves in the lifestyle they are accustomed to.
As a businessman – Ibrahim sold Celtel the company he owned for $3.4b, one can see how his perception on governance issues is coloured by his frustration at doing business on the continent.
However Ibrahim is wrong to believe that governance issues can be helped along by buying leaders out of power.
They say we get the leaders we deserve. We have corrupt, irresponsible and incompetent leadership in Africa for lack of a large enough middle class with vested economic interests to push democratic values and hold leaders accountable.
Mr Ibrahim’s money bags will be better spent on education, primary health and small and medium sized enterprises financing necessary ingredients in building a middle class that will ensure a sustainable solution to our governance issues.