When Sudanese-born billionaire Mo Ibrahim announced an annual $5 million prize to reward Africa's best leaders, he warned that there would be years when "we wouldn't award the prize." Just three years on, and despite considering "some credible candidates," the prize committee said on Monday that no prize would be awarded in 2009. In announcing the decision, committee member and former Botswana President Ketumile Masire said the panel "noted the progress made with governance in some African countries, while noticing with concern recent setbacks in other countries."
The non-award is, of course, a powerful indictment of Africa's still patchy governance and the continent's most recently retired leaders. The Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership considers democratically elected former heads of state or government who have left office in the last three years. The prize is worth $5 million over 10 years and $200,000 a year for life thereafter. By making the reward so big — it is the largest annually awarded prize in the world — Ibrahim has said he wanted to create something to encourage African leaders to do good while in power, in part because they might be rewarded in retirement.