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Saturday, 26 June 2010

Is the Mo Ibrahim Prize pointless?

Yes. According to Kenyan Journalist Alex Kiprotich because it is unlikely the Mo Ibrahim committee will find winners on the continent for sometime because the approach was doomed from the start :

However from the beginning, it was not going to be long before the selection committee led by former UN Secretary General ran into trouble because of the approach and selection criteria for the winners. First, putting a limit to the recipients that they must have retired in the last three years was unrealistic. Most Presidents in Africa do not retire. They would rather be bundled out of office by the military, die in office, or at worse hand over power to their sons or cronies when they become senile.

Those who try to be democratic do not leave office without a fight – a fight that drags the whole country in it. And with the first coalition government in Africa two years ago, it has changed the equation on leadership in Africa. Many incumbent Presidents in the continent have found the easy way to retain power by opting for a coalition with opposition leaders. It has become so popular that in any election in the continent, the result will be a coalition government.

Secondly, the decision to give monetary reward to the recipient of the award was also wrong given the fact that many presidents through corrupt deals make such an amount effortlessly within their first few days in power. The prize money is worth $5 million and an annual salary of $200,000, and a further grant of $200,000 per year for 10 years to support any good cause the winners chooses. This was akin to bribing the leaders to surrender power; yet they need the power more to protect their ill-gotten wealth.
In short, it suffers from structural problems - small population to draw winners from and weak incentive structures. But given Mo Ibrahim is doing this for free (at little cost to any African), surely this will always be good value for money? Unless we believe the prize does more harm than good. It appears Mr Kiprotch has not considered the possibility the fund may have been intentionally designed not to have a winner. May be it is there purely so that the likes of Mr Kiprotich can have have a moment every year to criticise African leadership? That would hardly qualify as a distraction and certainly no harm is being done. So Mo keeps his money every year and all Africans have complain about leadership. Its a win-win. Perhaps the Mo Ibrahim Prize is an example of  Cheap Talk?

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