Wednesday, October 24, 2007

5 Million Dollar Mindset

The winner of the Mo Ibrahim prize for achievement in African leadership has finally been announced this week. Mo Ibrahim is a Sudanese billionaire who sponsored the prize to award the most impressive African leader who left office peacefully in the past three years. The running included 13 former heads of state, though according to the BBC, six of them took power through coups. The winner of the prize is to receive $500,000 per year for the next ten years plus $200,000 for every year after that, as well as up to $200,000 per year for projects to improve social welfare. The prize was conceived by Ibrahim as a way to dissuade leaders from corruption and to reward an individual who has dedicated their his or her life to responsible public service. Judges for the prize included former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan, Nigerian minister Ngozi-Okonjo Iweala (posted about as a TED speaker below), and former prime minister of Tanzania/secretary general of the Organization of African Unity (OAU-now AU) Salim Ahmed Salim among others.

The winner of the Mo Ibrahim prize, as announced Monday by Kofi Annan, is Joaquim Chissano, former president of Mozambique. Mr. Chissano is credited with ending Mozambique's brutal civil war that raged from independence in 1975 to 1992, as well as voluntarily leaving office after two presidential terms. Mr. Chissano brought multi-party democracy to Mozambique in 1994 and encouraged women to participate in the political scene giving Mozambique the tenth highest ranking of all countries in the world in terms of percentage of women in national legislative bodies (parliament/congress) according to recent figures. Female participation in Mozambique is more than double that of the United States. Based on all the information I have read, Mr. Chissano seems like a very deserving choice for this extraordinary prize. I'm sure he has his faults, but regardless, his record stands as very impressive. I like Mr. Ibrahim's attempt to change our mindset about news concerning Africa. This is a strong effort to focus on the positive progress that has been made in Africa and the potential for additional improvement in the future. Not everything is about disease and war.

My favorite part about this whole affair is that when the winner was announced, Mr. Chissano was unable to comment because he didn't know he had won. He was in northern Uganda serving as a United Nations special envoy, helping to broker an end to the violence that has been occurring there for the past two decades. Now that is a man dedicated to peace and reconciliation.

Here is coverage of the prize, including an interview with Kofi Annan by Aljazeera

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