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World's richest prize to African leaders World's richest prize to African leaders
by Amin George Forji
2006-11-05 09:21:29
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Africa is a glass half-full and half-empty. It is one of the richest continents, but malpractices, such as mismanagement, fraud, bribery and corruption has rendered it the poorest continent on earth, filling the bottom places in every index that measures the standard and quality of human life.

The reason is that the continent has been cursed with bad leadership, since independence from colonial rule in the 1960s. These new autocrats and kleptocrats who have sustained their governments with graft, wanting to stay in power for prosterity, with or without election, are generally blamed for the grave poverty that has sadly racked these countries.

One of Africa's own, 60-year-old Sudanese born Mo Mohammed Ibrahim, the founder of Celtel, a UK-based mobile phone company and one of the continent's top businessmen, believes he has the key to change. He recently announced through the Mo Ibrahim Foundation that he is launching the "world's biggest prize".

This prize consists of $500,000 a year for 10 years to the best African leader in good governance, with another $200,000 a year in the form of charitable activities, and further $200,000 a year for life to the former president. Simply put, the prize is aimed at encouraging African leaders to rule well during their tenure in office, making live better for his fellow citizens, and then quietly stepping down from office, when that term ends.

Mo believes that Africa will be a much better place, if the leaders rule constitutionally, and refrain from corrupt practices. An expert panel from Harvard University has been commissioned to assess the 53 African presidents each year, grading them depending on how well they have served their fellow citizens while in office. Mo insists that only presidents that democratically transfer power to legitimate successors will qualify for the prize.

The most outrageous thing about the prize is perhaps the amount, which is many times more than the Noble Peace Prize. Why spend such huge amount of money on leaders that may have amassed enough already in their private pockets before leaving office? Why not spend directly on the poor or build schools and hospitals? Or is it meant to be a trumpet of awareness on the dangers of bad governance? If that is the intention, then he is certainly right.

There are presently more presidents ruling than ex-presidents living in Africa, which highlights the fact that many of these presidents have outstayed their welcome. There are supposedly elections in almost every African country to elect leaders, but the transparency and fairness of the ballot has been seriously questioned.

Explaining the purpose of the prize, Mo said that African leaders are traditionally faced with three evils notably sustaining relative poverty, finding a way to extend their term in office, and siphoning off public funds from state treasury for retirement. He says his prize is designed to give African presidents a fourth choice, which is "to govern well, and then win a substantial prize".

"We must face the reality...everything starts by admitting the truth: we failed. I'm not proud at all; I'm ashamed. We really need to resolve the problem, and the problem, in our view, is bad leadership and bad governance," Mo began. "I was looking for the fund to have maximum impact for my continent...the failure of Africa is essentially a failure of leadership and unless we fix that nothing will happen. We need to remove corruption and improve governance...the aim is to take good governance out of the closet."

His vision for an Africa that will no longer rely on insufficient western aid has led to key world figures welcoming the initiative. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Nobel Laureate economist Amartya Sen, former South African President Nelson Mandela and Former US President Bill Clinton are some of those who have already lent their support to Mo's work.

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Ergotelina2006-11-05 23:25:29
Good news

Thank you Amin

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