Is Mo Ibrahim's award building or hurting Africa?

File Dr Mo Ibrahim,2006 Mo Ibrahim is the founder of the annual African leadership award

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I appreciate the logic and the intentions behind Mo Ibrahim's generous annual award for African leadership. How can you argue with the idea of encouraging and rewarding good governance? Not least on this particular continent.

And yet, something about the $5m (£3.2m) prize has always bothered me.

Lurking behind Mr Ibrahim's worthy aims is the niggling sense that the money amounts to an annual bribe - a bribe for not accepting bribes - dangled like a fat carrot in front of the continent's elites, in the hope of steering them towards the sort of behaviour that should surely be taken for granted.

Isn't the uncomfortable link between money and power being reinforced, rather than broken?

The fact that the prize wasn't awarded for two years, because of a lack of suitable candidates, probably made some ex-presidents squirm and fume, and, perhaps, a few incumbents scratch their chins.

But are we really to think that Rupiah Banda relinquished the presidency in Zambia last month because he was holding out for Mr Ibrahim's pension plan? Is penury a genuine prospect facing any of the continent's incumbents?

I suppose what I'm asking is whether there isn't a better, less "top-down" way to reward a whole country for championing democratic norms, rather than an individual. Could a better incentive scheme be found?

Maybe the president gets the award, and the kudos, but the cash goes to a charity or a scheme chosen by the public?

Andrew Harding, Africa correspondent Article written by Andrew Harding Andrew Harding Africa correspondent

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    Comment number 1.

    Andrew, thank you for your articles; I have been praying for the Somalian crisis to be kept in the news. There is one man who can solve this crisis, and that is Jesus Christ. He is present and active through the Holy Spirit.
    You are being prayed for, and will have problems because of this. Be prepared. God bless.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Cape Verde leader, Pedro Pires, wins Mo Ibrahim award for good governance. Prize: $5million over 10 years + $200,000 annually for life = biggest annual prize in world. In addition, Mo Ibrahim Foundation will consider granting a further $200,000 per year, for 10 years, towards public activities espoused by Pires. I don't know much about Cape Verde but it's a peaceful, democratic & non-aligned.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    As for Mo Ibrahim Award being a sort of bribe, I don't get that impression. Foundation appears to foster balanced approach to governance. Mo Ibrahim said Africa's young people are no longer willing to stand for selective approach to govt. Young people are demanding a holistic, equitable & inclusive approach to management of their countries, as in Cape Verde.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    At least he is trying do something to to help Africa. These are previous leaders he's still paying own his money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Westerners squirm at the use of money in this way, but Africans are less squeamish. One of the benefits of this report is that it names and shames the people at the bottom of the list. Mugabe can no longer claim that the bad press he receives is just western propaganda. Zimbabwe's place in the bottom five of nearly every category is a true reflection - and a disgrace to the continent.


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