And the 2013 Ibrahim Prize for achievement in African leadership goes to...

No one won the world's biggest cash prize this year. Again.

For the second year in a row, the prize committee for the Ibrahim prize for achievement in African leadership have decided that no one merited the award. The Ibrahim Prize, which is paid for by the Sudanese telecoms billionaire Mo Ibrahim, but decided by committee, is the largest cash prize in the world, amounting to $5m over 10 years and then $200,000 annually for life.

It is awarded to African leaders who provide a strong role model to others and who have stepped down voluntarily from power. Since the prize was launched in 2007 it has only been awarded three times, to Cape Verde’s President Pedro de Verona Rodrigues Pires (2011), Botwana’s President Festus Gontebanye Mogae (2008) and Mozambique’s President Joaquim Alberto Chissano (2007).

Speaking at a press conference in London, Salim Ahmed Salim, the chairman of the prize committee and ex-prime minister of Tanzania, refused to reveal whether any ex-presidents were close candidates for the prize. Mo Ibrahim added that he was “hopeful” that he will hand out the award soon, and even suggested they may in future years have to split the prize between several deserving candidates.

A financial reward seems like a strange way to encourage leaders to turn away from corruption - $5m may be the world’s biggest cash prize, but it’s pocket money for the average kleptomaniac dictator.  Then again, you could equally argue the prize money is too large. It is intended to allow winners to 'use their skills and experience at the continental level once they have left national office.' Which is an interesting idea, although it's not clear whether the prize would need to be quite so generous to support this goal.

Ibrahim, however, insists his prize is having an effect, even on years when no one is awarded. He says it has generated interest from incumbent leaders, who are keen to implement democratic reforms, telling journalists at the press conference that “a new generation of African presidents are coming forward, who are very serious and who are taking these things [accountability and good governance] very seriously.”

Overall, Ibrahim, believes that across Africa governance is improving. His eponymous foundation produces an annual report, also launched today, which ranks African countries in terms of governance, where governance is seen as a function of improved safety and rule of law, participation and human rights, sustainable economic opportunity and human development. His report has found that 94 per cent of Africans have experienced improved governance since 2000, but that while human rights, economic growth and human development have all got better across the continent, personal safety and the rule of law is deteriorating.

The picture also varies from country to country. According to his report, Mauritius, Botswana and Cape Verde experienced the best governance, while Eritrea, DRC and Somalia are the worst governed countries. While Liberia showed the best improvement in governance this year, Libya fared the worst.

Sudan-born telecoms tycoon Mo Ibrahim introduces the 2013 Ibrahim Prize for achievement in African Leadership. Photo:Getty.

Sophie McBain is a freelance writer based in Cairo. She was previously an assistant editor at the New Statesman.

BFM TV
Show Hide image

Emmanuel Macron's "moralisation of politics" comes at a heavy price for his allies

"Fake" jobs in French politics, season 3 episode 1.

Something is rotten in the state of France. No political party – at least none that existed before 2016 – seems immune to the spread of investigations into “fake” or shady parliamentary jobs. The accusations sank centre-right candidate François Fillon’s presidential campaign, and led to Marine Le Pen losing her parliamentary immunity in the European parliament (and proxy wars within her party, the National Front). Both deny the allegations. Now the investigations have made their way to the French government, led by Edouard Philippe, Emmanuel Macron’s Prime Minister.

On Wednesday morning, justice minister François Bayrou and secretary of state for European affairs Marielle de Sarnez announced their resignation from Philippe’s cabinet. They followed defence minister Sylvie Goulard’s resignation the previous day. The three politicians belonged not to Macron's party, En Marche!, but the centrist MoDem party. Bayrou, the leader, had thrown his weight behind Macron after dropping his own presidential bid in April.

The disappearance of three ministers leaves Emmanuel Macron’s cross-party government, which includes politicians from centre left and centre right parties, without a centrist helm. (Bayrou, who has run several times for the French presidency and lost, is the original “neither left nor right” politician – just with a less disruptive attitude, and a lot less luck). “I have decided not to be part of the next government,” he told the AFP.

Rumours had been spreading for weeks. Bayrou, who was last part of a French government as education minister from 1993 to 1997, had been under pressure since 9 June, when he was included in a preliminary investigation into “embezzlement”. The case revolves around whether the parliamentary assistants of MoDem's MEPs, paid for by the European Parliament, were actually working full or part-time for the party. The other two MoDem ministers who resigned, along with Bayrou, also have assistants under investigation.

Bayrou has denied the allegations. He has declared that there “never was” any case of “fake” jobs within his party and that it would be “easy to prove”. All the same, by the time he resigned, his position as justice minister has become untenable, not least because he was tasked by Macron with developing key legislation on the “moralisation of politics”, one of the new President’s campaign pledges. On 1 June, Bayrou unveiled the new law, which plans a 10-year ban from public life for any politician convicted of a crime or offence regarding honesty and transparency in their work.

Bayrou described his decision to resign as a sacrifice. “My name was never pronounced, but I was the target to hit to attack the government’s credibility,” he said, declaring he would rather “protect this law” by stepping down. The other two ministers also refuted the allegations, and gave similar reasons for resigning. 

Macron’s movement-turned-unstoppable-machine, En Marche!, remains untainted from accusations of the sort. Their 350 new MPs are younger, more diverse than is usual in France – but they are newcomers in politics. Which is exactly why Macron had sought an alliance with experienced Bayrou in the first place.

0800 7318496