- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 26, 2006

11:52 a.m.

A Sudanese-born cell phone mogul plans to announce in London today a multimillion-dollar prize for responsible African leadership.

Mo Ibrahim, the founder and chairman of Celtel International mobile phone group in sub-Saharan Africa, will announce the world’s largest monetary prize to African leaders who have demonstrated excellence in political leadership.

“Nothing is more important to African development than good governance,” Mr. Ibrahim said. “The foundation will aim to change fundamentally the choices faced by African leaders, and as a result, recast the terms of the governance debate.”

The Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership will award $5 million over 10 years, and $200,000 annually for life thereafter. There will be an additional $200,000 per year made available for causes espoused by the leader. The prize will be awarded annually starting next year.

By offering African leaders a prize that ensures financial security for life, Mr. Ibrahim hopes to encourage the leaders to be better stewards of the public trust. His initiative has won praise from former South African President Nelson Mandela, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former President Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

“The foundation aims to reward and encourage exemplary leadership — an aim which has my full support,” said Mr. Blair.

Mr. Ibrahim, who is a British citizen, was born in Sudan. With degrees in telecommunications, he played a role in setting up Britain’s cellular network, before establishing an international consulting firm, where he focused on Africa. Mr. Ibrahim’s company today employs 3,500 and has 7 million customers in Africa. Last year, it was sold for more than $3.4 billion. His foundation, which will determine who gets the prize, is funded with an estimated $100 million.

“The prize will bring the issue of good governance and effective leadership into debate,” Mr. Ibrahim said. “This is an African effort, with African money, from African private citizens.”

Candidates will be chosen based largely, though not completely, on the Mo Ibrahim Index of Governance in Africa, a new country-by-country ranking of effective leadership in sub-Saharan Africa developed by Robert Rotberg of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

“This is a brand-new ranking system,” Mr. Rotberg said. “Nothing like this has ever been done to measure the African governments.”

He said that the purpose of creating the index was to highlight government corruption in Africa, to help improve governments in Africa, to support the work of civil society and to strengthen government leadership.

Mr. Rotberg said that the ranking will chart African development, with special focus on sub-Saharan Africa, through objective and concrete figures — to rank a nation’s security, rule of law, economics, infrastructure, education service and civil society.

A not-for-profit organization, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation is governed by a board of trustees that includes Mr. Ibrahim; Salim Ahmed Salim, the former secretary-general of the Organization of African Unity; and Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland and one-time U.N. high commissioner for human rights.

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