LONDON, October 20 – Botswana’s former president Festus Mogae was Monday named the winner of a five-million-dollar prize for good governance in Africa, winning praise for putting his country’s mineral wealth to good use.,
Announcing the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership in London’s City Hall, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan also praised Mogae’s efforts in fighting AIDS in the southern African nation.
"President Mogae’s outstanding leadership has ensured Botswana’s continued stability and prosperity in the face of an HIV/AIDS pandemic which threatened the future of his country and people," Annan said.
"Botswana demonstrates how a country with natural resources can promote sustainable development with good governance, in a continent where too often mineral wealth has become a curse," Annan added.
Botswana is one of Africa’s most stable countries, with a high credit rating and one of the best standards of living on the continent.
Annan also praised Mogae, who handed over power in April after a decade in office, for successfully diversifying Botswana’s economy to reduce its dependence on diamonds — it is the world’s biggest producer of the gems.
Mogae has encouraged companies to mine large reserves of coal and open Botswana up to tourists to take advantage of the country’s spectacular wildlife.
Guinea’s former education minister Aicha Bah Diallo, a member of the prize committee, compared Botswana’s progress with the decade-long civil war in another diamond-rich African country, Sierra Leone.
"If you want to see the difference, look at Botswana and Sierra Leone. That is what good governance and education can do," Diallo said.
"We should celebrate the fact that there is someone who says ‘my country is rich, I should share it’."
Mogae, 69, who was succeeded by his long-time heir apparent Ian Khama, becomes just the second winner of the award, the largest annually awarded prize in the world.
Apart from the five million dollars (3.7 million euros) cash prize paid over 10 years, Mogae will also receive 200,000 dollars a year for life thereafter.
The foundation which awards the prize was created in 2006 by Mo Ibrahim, a Sudanese telecommunications mogul.
Joaquim Chissano, the former president of Mozambique, was the inaugural winner.
The prize is awarded to African former heads of state or government who have left office within the last three years.