Is Mo Ibrahim's award building or hurting Africa?

File Dr Mo Ibrahim,2006 Mo Ibrahim is the founder of the annual African leadership award

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I appreciate the logic and the intentions behind Mo Ibrahim's generous annual award for African leadership. How can you argue with the idea of encouraging and rewarding good governance? Not least on this particular continent.

And yet, something about the $5m (£3.2m) prize has always bothered me.

Lurking behind Mr Ibrahim's worthy aims is the niggling sense that the money amounts to an annual bribe - a bribe for not accepting bribes - dangled like a fat carrot in front of the continent's elites, in the hope of steering them towards the sort of behaviour that should surely be taken for granted.

Isn't the uncomfortable link between money and power being reinforced, rather than broken?

The fact that the prize wasn't awarded for two years, because of a lack of suitable candidates, probably made some ex-presidents squirm and fume, and, perhaps, a few incumbents scratch their chins.

But are we really to think that Rupiah Banda relinquished the presidency in Zambia last month because he was holding out for Mr Ibrahim's pension plan? Is penury a genuine prospect facing any of the continent's incumbents?

I suppose what I'm asking is whether there isn't a better, less "top-down" way to reward a whole country for championing democratic norms, rather than an individual. Could a better incentive scheme be found?

Maybe the president gets the award, and the kudos, but the cash goes to a charity or a scheme chosen by the public?

Andrew Harding Article written by Andrew Harding Andrew Harding Africa correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    This years award should go to Sarkozy and Cameron including NATO for their fight for and defence of democracy and human rights in Libya seemingly like "ferocious beasts."

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    African leaders stay in office for fear of neglect once they become private citizens. The idea of living in poverty when out of office is terrifying to them, thus the determination to hang on even when they are no longer wanted. Money designed to lure them away from holding on to office is one way of encouraging them to behave under internationally accepted standards of democratic practice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    barotseland - please read the blog again and i think you'll see i was making the opposite point to the one you suggest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Africa isn't Europe but it would weird to ignore the "incentives" used elsewhere. What (generally) stops the political elite from engorging on corruption and clinging on to power in Europe? The rule of law, and the social shame engendered by a free media. That's where resources are needed. What if the AU had mandate & resources to police African states, fight corruption and ensure press freedoms.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Give credit where it is due. what Rupiah banda of zambia has done cannot be so un-proffesionaly analysed as done in your article.
    It is unfortunate that a BBC correspondet can be so frozen in thinking to suggest that zambia's Banda handed over power in search of cash.
    your article sounds like a tipical political tabloid written in Zambia and not for news channel like the BBC.


Comments 5 of 13


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