African Leaders’ Eyes on the Prize

Critics of the Ibrahim Prize – a $5 million award given to democratically elected African heads of state or government who left office constitutionally and demonstrated exceptional leadership – argue that politicians should not be "bribed" to be good. But is it really so bad if the prospect of winning keeps a leader on the high road?

CAMBRIDGE – On October 14, the Mo Ibrahim Prize Committee announced that for the second year in a row it had not found anyone to whom to award its Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. Why is that important?

The prize is given to a recently retired African head of state or government who was democratically elected, stepped down at the end of his or her constitutionally mandated term, and demonstrated exceptional leadership. The winner receives $5 million paid over ten years, followed by $200,000 annually for life, making it the world’s most valuable annual award.

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation supports other important activities, particularly the annual Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG), which was also released on October 14. But I am especially intrigued by the prize. It is a fascinating social-policy experiment, which deserves to be more widely known.

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