For the second year in a row, the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership was not awarded to anybody. It wasn’t hard to see why – since last year, no new candidates of suitable stature had become eligible, and the Prize Committee had already deemed last year’s batch “credible” but not exceptional. And this is a prize for exceptional leadership. As Mo Ibrahim clearly says, the Prize is not meant to be awarded every year; and, crucially, he adds that this is not an African problem. Were the prize to be awarded only to European heads of state or government, would it have been awarded every one of the last four years? I’m not so sure. Listen to Mo Ibrahim’s comments here. A brave decision by the Prize Committee, which includes notables such as Kofi Annan, Graça Machel and Mohamed ElBaradei.
The point to take from the decision is that the Ibrahim Prize is not a reflection of African governance in general. If you want that, have a look at the Ibrahim Index, also produced by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which assesses governance on the continent. It is a mechanism to reward and praise those leaders who have excelled on the continent, and ultimately, the higher the standards of the prize, the more leaders will have to strive to attain it. And that can only be a good thing.