It was the first time ever the Mo Ibrahim Foundation gave out a $1-million cash award, in addition to its annual $5 million award to an African leader. This special, one-time ever honor went to Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The foundation, which was established to promote African development, recently awarded the South African freedom fighter $1 million. The foundation announced the award was bestowed on Tutu for his "speaking truth to power.”
“Archbishop Desmond Tutu was given the award in recognition of his lifelong commitment to speaking truth to power. Throughout his life, he has been one of Africa’s great voices for justice, freedom, democracy and responsible, responsive government,” explains Eric Chinje, director of Strategic Communications. The decision to give Tutu this special award was made by the Board of the foundation during its September 8th meeting in Paris, France.
"I have been very fortunate throughout my life to be surrounded by people of the highest caliber, beginning with my extraordinary wife," said Tutu in a press statement. "It is these generous people who have guided, prodded, assisted, cajoled - and ultimately allowed me to take the credit."
In 1984 Tutu, now 81 and retired, won the Nobel Peace Prize - and 10m Swedish Krona for his tireless campaign against apartheid.
This $1 million award was a one-time occurrence. “The Board of the foundation made it clear this was a one-time special award to a man who had maintained a long commitment to civil society during a long and remarkable career," says Chinje.
The London-based foundation will however continue to give out its $5 million award (plus $200,000 a year for life) to an African leader. It does so annually award to a former African head of state for good governance. The last recipient was Cape Verde's former President Pedro Verona Rodrigues Pires in 2011. For this award, which was launched in 2007, winners must have been democratically elected and agreed to leave office. The first award was awarded to former president Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique for his efforts to promote peace and end conflict.
The Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership is believed to be the world's largest. Although the foundation tries to issue the award each year, there have been some years where the foundation could not find a leader worthy of the award. The 2012 prize recipient will be announced before year's end.
The foundation aims to:
• Provide a framework and tools with which citizens and governments can assess and measure progress in governance
• Recognize excellence in African leadership and provide a practical way in which leaders can build positive legacies on the continent when they have left national office
• Stimulate debate on the quality of governance and major governance issues in Africa
• Develop leadership and governance capacity in Africa
The man behind the foundation is Mo Ibrahim, a British-Sudanese mobile communications entrepreneur and philanthropist. He made billions by investing in Africa. In 1988, he founded a telecommunications company Celtel International.