The Mo Ibrahim Foundation
has released its 2012 African Governance index, an annual study that this year showed worrying slides among Africa’s economic powerhouses and in Zimbabwe. The foundation was also due to announce which former African leader won the coveted $5 million African good governance award. On that front, the foundation had a surprise.
And the world’s largest prize for excellence in African governance goes to … no one.
It’s not the first time this has happened. Nor, says Mo Ibrahim Foundation board member Jay Naidoo, is it surprising.
“The award is not just for ordinary service, it is for exceptional service," said Naidoo. "And the criteria that the board and that the prize committee uses, no one has exceeded and achieved exceptional service in terms of contributing to social cohesion, in terms of integrity, in terms of transparency, the way that they delivered services to people.
"And the board said that it is not sufficient to say we have give the prize out, itself it’s a very important and powerful political message to say that we do not believe that anyone is entitled to this prize in this year,” added Naidoo.
Ibrahim, the Sudanese telecoms billionaire who started the award in 2006, said Monday in London that the prize committee refused to compromise on its standards.
The committee also declined to give an award in 2009 and 2010.
In addition to showing exceptional leadership, the award stipulates that the winner be democratically elected and that he or she leave office voluntarily after serving only a constitutionally mandated term.
Those qualities are rare among African leaders. Many of the continent's leaders serve for decades before dying in office. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is an example: he has led since 1980 and says he wants to stay in power.
On Monday, Ibrahim singled out the 88-year-old Mugabe, saying his leadership prevented the resource-rich southern African nation from being an African powerhouse.
This year there were two popular contenders for the prize: former Zambian president Rupiah Banda, who gave up power to election winner Michael Sata; and former Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade, who gave up power to election winner Macky Sall -- though Wade notably changed the constitution to allow himself to run.
Former winners of the Ibrahim prize include Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, Festus Mogae of Botswana and the Pedro Pires, former president of the tiny island nation of Cape Verde.
The foundation also released its annual index of African governance Monday.
Naidoo started with the good news: he says the index shows there has been clear progress and improvement in African governance in the past decade. He also cited improvement in gender issues.
“The not-so-good news is the fact that the economic powerhouses of Africa, namely Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt and Kenya have shown a decline in certain sectors, particularly around the issue of law, in terms of human rights, in terms of security," said Naidoo. "And I think that’s not really good news for us, because they are the ones expected to pull the African continent out of the global economic crisis.”
South Africa topped the powerhouse group at fifth place. But Nigeria, the continent’s most populous nation, fell to an all-time low on the rankings, at 42nd place. Nigerian is struggling with the rise of an Islamist group that has killed well over 1,000 people in the past two years, many of them police and government officials.
Once again, tiny Mauritius nabbed the top spot among 52 ranked nations.
At the bottom, predictably, is Somalia. Even to a casual observer, Somalia performs poorly on all four of the foundation’s four criteria for good governance: safety and rule of law, participation and human rights, sustainable economic opportunity and human development.
The ranking doesn’t include Mo Ibrahim’s nation of Sudan, or the newly independent South Sudan. The foundation says it doesn't have comprehensive data on either nation.