African leadership incentive

Stephen Beard Oct 27, 2006


KAI RYSSDAL:The world’s richest annual prize—worth more than 5 million dollars—has just been launched in London. But you have to be an African president to win it. And you have be totally incorruptible as well, which might narrow the field a bit. Marketplace’s Stephen Beard reports.

STEPHEN BEARD:Mo Ibrahim, a Sudanese billionaire, wants to use his cash to tackle one of Africa’s biggest problems: corruption. He’s hit on a novel idea. He’s offering, in effect, a large bribe to African leaders to keep their hands out of the cookie jar and run their countries properly.

Each year, an award panel will name a winning president. And to stop them clinging to office, it’s only after they’ve quit the presidency they get to collect the prize: half a million bucks a year for 10 years and then $200,000 a year for life. UN chief Kofi Annan endorsed the scheme.

KOFI ANNAN:I thank Mo and all those engaged for establishing such a generous prize as an incentive.

But skeptics like Patrick Smith of Africa Confidential Magazine feel the new prize is slightly potty.

PATRICK SMITH:The people who know what to do and have done well are already doing it. And the people who are doing badly and stealing state resources are going to carry on doing that.

The $5-million prize may be the world’s richest award but, say the critics, it wouldn’t have deterred Africa’s most determined thieves. Mobutu of Zaire and Abacha of Nigeria are reckoned to have ripped off their countries to the tune of $5 billion each.

In London this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

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