Mo Ibrahim at a past event in Addis Ababa. His list of potential winners is short indeed. (Photo/ Flickr/ Mo Ibrahim Foundation)

No Winner For Ibrahim Prize, Again: Just Four Former Presidents In Africa Are Even Eligible

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THIS year marks the sixth time, and the second year running, that the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership has not been awarded. It was launched in 2006.

The prize recognises excellence in African leadership, and candidates are all former African executive heads of state or government who have left their office during the last three calendar years, having been democratically elected and served their constitutionally mandated term.

But more than that, the Prize organisers say, winners have to be truly outstanding – the jury is looking for “transformative impact their leadership had on their country and on their people”.

Like last year, the organisers say that the decision yet again not to award it is more of a reflection of the exceptionally high bar set for potential winners, rather than any disappointment with the overall quality of leadership on the continent.

“The Prize is intended to highlight and celebrate truly exceptional leadership, which is uncommon by its very definition. After careful consideration, the Committee has decided not to award the Prize in 2016,” a statement from Salim Ahmed Salim, chair of the prize committee, reads.


But even with single criterion of stepping down willingly at the end of their constitutional term in the past three years, the data reveals that the committee is working from a very narrow pool – in the past four years, just four former presidents in Africa are even eligible for the prize.

These are Yaya Boni of Benin, Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, Mwai Kibaki of Kenya and Armando Guebuza of Mozambique.

In all the other countries, presidents have either died in office, been deposed in a coup or revolution, lost at the ballot, or changed the constitution to extend their term in office.

Since the prize was launched, there have actually been more years when the prize has not been awarded, than when it has.

The previous laureates are Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia (2014), Pedro Pires of Cabo Verde (2011), Festus Mogae of Botswana (2008), and Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique (2007). Nelson Mandela was an honorary laureate in 2007.

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The data suggests some kind of southward force for prize winners – four out of the five previous laureates are from southern Africa. One could say that the prize finds it difficult to cross the equator, for some reason.

And perhaps 2018will be the one to watch, when there could bea woman laureate: Liberia’s Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s second term in office ends later this year.

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