One of Africa’s most successful businessmen Dr Mo Ibrahim has defended the motive behind his foundation’s development of the African Good Governance (Ibrahim) index whilst also clarifying the target recipients of the proposed $5million prize money to a deserving African leader.
Speaking in a telephone interview with Awoko, Dr Ibrahim defended why he decided on a good governance prize rather than helping African businessmen to be as successful as he is by asking a series of questions.
He said “how can you help African businessmen to be successful if there is no (conducive) environment, if there is red tape, if there is corruption – you have to pay bribes for everything, you are unable to (save) money, if there is poor infrastructure to support the business, if there is no educated people to work in the businesses if you don’t have any of these how can these people be able to do business?”
Dr Ibrahim explained further that the index “is not only to enable decent people, but it is to enable all of Africa to move forward, whether they be teachers, whether nurses, it is how to move forward.”
He stated “you cannot move forward without good governance, without peace, without security, without infrastructure, basic education, basic health services, this is what governments need to deliver to its people.”
It is time he said “for us to have a score card and to check what is being delivered to our people.”
The Sudanese born businessman urged journalists “as part of civil society” to help “educate people and say ok here is the score card, this is the issue, who is being watched, why the neighbouring countries are doing better than us in this area or we are doing better than our neighbours in that area, is that because of our policy …”“That is the kind of debate we want to have” he said “because then we’ll move forward then business people will do well, then workers will do well, then banks will do well then doctors will do well, then everybody will do well that is what we want to have.”
Questioned whether on the contrary this was not an exercise in naming and shaming those African leaders who have not performed well during their time in office, Dr Ibrahim said “It is not our intention to name or shame anybody”.
He maintained “it is no shame” adding “if you look at Rwanda for example, Rwanda moved up 20 places they had genocide in the country they came from very low (and) you cannot have worse than genocide … you have a number of killings, people kill huge … but once you stop that, once you have security and access and they move upward that’s the value of it these countries can move.”
Dr Ibrahim argued that “it is very simplistic to say its about naming or shaming.” Instead he said “actually we are offering advice … we are offering a good prize.”
Pressed further that African people and not the leaders should be getting those monies Dr Ibrahim again asked “do you know how much money Sierra Leone receives in income revenues and from outside funds – what happens to all your revenues?”
“Africa” he pointed out “last year received over 70 billion dollars, where they had there own income and what exactly happened to theses monies has it all been spent wisely, correctly, did it have the right priorities and have every dollar been spent honestly?” he questioned.
Again defending his vision Dr Ibrahim said the prize “5 million dollars is nothing it’s a drop in the ocean compared to this huge amount of money (70billion)”
He went on to explain that what they are doing is “we are leveraging all this huge amount of money … because the leader who gets this is the leader who spent all this money carefully and (sought) to spend it very effectively and wisely on behalf of his people not for his pocket, family or his friends or his accomplices … so the 5 million dollar would have achieved hopefully the objective of the 70 billion dollars that is the value of what we are doing.”
Dr Ibrahim emphatically made it clear that “The leader who lives office who took money to enrich themselves … those are not our target, those are not our heroes we are not interested in those people.”
He maintained “those who are clean and have clean hands and served the people, served the country did not serve their family, did not serve their friends but everybody in the country and they left office as poor as they came in these are the people we want to support and make heroes.”
Asked whether he would like to be remembered as the Alfred Nobel of Africa, he pondered on the question before answering that it all depends if the Ibrahim index was successful and acquires the credibility before humourously taking a jibe at Nobel saying he did not develop dynamite, he only gave mobile phones to Africans.
The 60 year old Sudanese born billionaire was the original owner of Celtel, one of Africa’s most successful mobile phone networks.