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Exceptional award for exceptional leadership

No African leaders were commended by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation for their outstanding achievements as African leaders in the years 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016. This while the award was first presented in 2007. This year, on the other hand, a former head of state has again been commended for her outstanding achievements in African leadership. The award was presented to Liberia's former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who, after completing two terms in office, in January this year had to give way for former footballer George Weah. She will receive a $5 million (€4.1 million) award that will spread over 10 years. On top of that comes a lifetime reward of $200,000 annually. But to what does Sirleaf, the woman who features as Africa's first female president and Nobel laureate, owe this?

To be eligible for the award, African heads of state must have been democratically elected, have fully completed their term and have been away from office for a maximum of three years. All this through free and fair elections. For Sirleaf, not only did she manage to keep the peace under very difficult circumstances in a country with a long history of civil wars, but she also handled the Ebola crisis well with the resources at hand. In addition, under her rule, foreign debt decreased by almost $5 billion and the national budget increased from $80 million to more than $500 million.

Only for the very best

The Mo Ibrahim Prize is the most important award in the field of (democratic) development on the continent. Salim Ahmed Salim, who heads the committee awarding the prize, says: "The prize is intended to highlight and celebrate truly exceptional leadership, which is uncommon by its very definition." Nelson Mandela, for instance, was the first to win the prize in 2007 and has held the title of honorary member of the foundation ever since. The award has the advantage of inspiring leaders in a non-coercive way to make democratisation and human rights a high priority. The African continent should be able to continue to benefit from leaders after they leave office. Joining in another public office on the continent contributes to this. In this way, the way can be paved for sustainable and equitable prosperity and the benefits can be reaped even after the respective term in office.

Mo Ibrahim; chief guest Africa Day 2014


In 2014, Mo Ibrahim was chief guest of Africa Day ( Ibrahim is a wealthy businessman from Sudan who is actively working for the democratisation and prosperity of Africa. Besides the Mo Ibrahim Prize, there are several initiatives and branches of his foundation that focus on this. For instance, the Mo Ibrahim Index is a measurement tool to gauge these activities by country in Africa. The IIAG (Ibrahim Index of African Governance) is the main index for the degree of "good governance" in Africa. Governance is described as a country's responsibility to provide political, social and economic public goods and services to its citizens. This index is measured through four main categories: security and rule of law, participation and human rights, sustainable economic opportunities and human development. Using 100 indicators, the IIAG measures a country's overall governance performance.

Liberia's new president, George Weah, will have a difficult task to continue Sirleaf's line, but hopefully Sirleaf can inspire other African leaders and the Mo Ibrahim Prize can become an annual event as intended.

Wondering who will be keynote speaker at this year's Africa Day? Keep checking our site and social media for more information on speakers, the programme and much more!

Photo: Flickr