African Telecom Billionaire Mo Ibrahim On Why The Mo Ibrahim Prize Is Still Important

Apr 1 2014, 5:02pm CDT | by

African Telecom Billionaire Mo Ibrahim On Why The Mo Ibrahim Prize Is Still Important
Photo Credit: Forbes Business

Sudanese-born Mo Ibrahim is one of the richest men in the world. In 1998, telecom entrepreneur founded Celtel, a mobile phone operator that enjoyed an active presence across multiple African countries. When he sold the company in 2005 to MTC Kuwait in a landmark $3.4 billion transaction, Celtel had more than 24 million subscribers in 18 different countries. Ibrahim, 67, who is now worth $1.1 billion according FORBES’ latest estimates, subsequently established the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, a non-governmental organization established to promote African development, with a special focus on promoting good governance in sub-Saharan Africa. The foundation publishes the Ibrahim Index of African Governance, an annual assessment of African countries based on the quality of their governance.

But the foundation is arguably more well known for its annual Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, which awards an initial $5 million payment and a $200,000 annual payment for life to African heads of state who deliver security and health to their electorates and democratically transfer power to their successors.

Ibrahim is currently in Casablanca, Morocco as a special guest of the Kingdom’s Minister for Industry, Commerce & Trade, Moulay Hafid Elalamy who is presenting Morocco’s new industrial strategy on Tuesday. I briefly caught up with him earlier today at the Hyatt Regency, Casablanca and used the opportunity to find out from him why he believes the Mo Ibrahim Prize is still important.

There has been no winner for the Mo Ibrahim Prize for the past two years. Does this break your heart?

It’s a bit disappointing, but it goes to show that governance and leadership in Africa is miles away from where we want it to be. It’s a work in progress.

A lot of people expected former President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya to be the recipient for last year. What happened?

I’m not on the prize committee, so I wouldn’t know. I don’t check with them to ask them questions. I trust their judgment completely.

$5 million is a lot of money, no doubt. But do you think it’s enough motivation for an African leader who has billions of dollars at his disposal?

We are not trying to bribe African leaders to be good. Of course, these presidents have access to a lot more money than this. But we have a number of reasons why we believe this prize is very important: We need to turn the spotlight on positive role models for the African people. The Western media is always so excited to blow up stories about African kleptocrats like Mobutu Seseko, [Sani] Abacha and all the other crazy people who run some of our countries.

But Africa also has some unsung heroes apart from Mandela, and very few people know anything about these decent African leaders. We have people like Joaquim Chissano [former President of Mozambique], Festus Mogae [former President of Botswana] and Pedro Pires [former President of Cape Verde] – remarkable African leaders who are our laureates. These names are not very well known internationally, and even Africans don’t know them, unfortunately. It’s about recognizing the good ones, and making them role models.

So, the prize – considering that it’s a significant amount of money- helps to raise the profile of the award and helps stir a conversation about good governance in Africa, which is what we are looking to achieve. Usually, towards the end of the year when the prize is being offered,  there is a lot of speculation about who will win the prize and then that conversation spirals into a conversation about good leadership. We need Africans to continually have that conversation, and the amount of people calling, trolling the Internet and proposing names of people who deserve to win – that’s important because it puts the spotlight on these people.

I’d argue that we help drive conversations about leadership and governance in Africa, which is good. Finally, we find that when good African leaders eventually leave office, they have nothing to do. They have no pension or in some cases their pension is small, and they have not stolen money, so they have nothing. Unlike American and European leaders who can easily write memoirs and get millions in advance fees and royalties or get millions in speaking fees at conferences or charge huge sums for consulting fees, African leaders don’t often get those opportunities after leaving office. What will they do? And many of these good leaders have initiatives they want to continually support in areas like education, healthcare, climate change, etc. So the money given to these people helps them set up their foundations and carry on with their good work.

Follow me on Twitter @MfonobongNsehe

Source: Forbes Business


Don't miss ...


<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.


blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

Jailed reporter's family urges Iran to release him
Tehran, Oct 31 (IANS/EFE) The family of Washington Post's Iranian-American reporter Jason Rezaian, held without charges in Iran for more than 100 days, has called on Tehran to set him free.
China pledges financial aid to Afghanistan
Beijing, Oct 31 (IANS) China Friday pledged to provide a non-reimbursable assistance of 500 million yuan ($81.43 million) to Afghanistan this year, authorities said.
Russia, Ukraine agree on gas supplies
Moscow, Oct 31 (IANS) Russia, Ukraine, and the European Commission (EC) have signed an agreement on gas supply and transit conditions until March 2015, media reported Friday.
US body probes India's trade policies under Modi
Washington, Oct 31 (IANS) The US International Trade Commission (USITC) has launched an investigation to examine "significant changes" to India's trade and investment policies since the new Modi government came to power.

Latest from the Network

Ariana Grande and Big Sean take next step
Ariana Grande and Big Sean are reportedly taking their relationship to the next level. The 26-year-old rapper is keen to take his girlfriend back to his hometown of Detroit, Michigan. A source told ''...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
Kerry cites Modi visit to show new diplomatic challenges
Washington, Oct 31 (IANS) Citing Prime Minister Narendra Modi's US visit, Secretary of State John Kerry says US diplomacy faces new challenges in a globalised world with countries "flexing their muscles and...
Read more on Politics Balla
Kaka to debut for Orlando City in a friendly
Rio de Janeiro, Oct 31 (IANS) Kaka is set to make his debut for Orlando City in a January friendly against Brazilian giants Flamengo, media reports said. The match has been scheduled for Jan 28 at the Arena Amazonia...
Read more on Sport Balla
Israel recalls ambassador after Sweden recognises Palestinian state
Jerusalem, Oct 31 (IANS) Israel recalled its ambassador to Sweden Thursday to protest the Scandinavian country's decision to recognise a Palestinian state, an Israeli foreign ministry source said. Yitzhak Bachman,...
Read more on Politics Balla
Cincinnati Reds Exercise $10.5M Club Option for Johnny Cueto
The Cincinnati Reds exercised a club option for ace pitcher Johnny Cueto for the 2015 MLB season on Oct. 30.According to's Mark Sheldon, the club option is worth $10.5 million. The Reds also declined to exercise...
Read more on Sport Balla
'Big Hero 6' co-director loved Marvel comics as kid
Los Angeles, Oct 31 (IANS) Don Hall, the co-director of "Big Hero 6" -- a big screen adventure about the bond between a boy and his robot, says during his childhood, he was a fan of the eponymous Marvel comics, which...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
Australia to lift sanctions on Fiji
Sydney, Oct 31 (IANS) Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced Friday that her government was lifting sanctions on Fiji that have been in place since the 2006 military coup in the country. "As I depart for...
Read more on Business Balla
Taylor Swift: I want to write poetry
Taylor Swift would love to write poetry. The 24-year-old - who has penned hit tracks like 'Red' and 'I Knew You Were Trouble' - has admitted that she'd like to try writing for other mediums. She told Associated Press...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
Jennifer Garner loves Ben Affleck's 'sexy' Batman voice
Jennifer Garner loves Ben Affleck's Batman voice. The 42-year-old actor plays the superhero in 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' and his wife of nine years admits she thinks the voice he uses is ''sexy''. She told...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
Reese Witherspoon hates 'likeable' tag
Reese Witherspoon hates being ''likeable''. The 'Water For Elephants' star dislikes when people brand her in that way because it affects which acting roles she is given. She told the New York Times newspaper: ''I've sat...
Read more on Celebrity Balla