By Alasdair Charnock and Annabel Palmer

Having not been awarded for the last two years due to a lack of suitable candidates, The Mo Ibrahim Foundation Award for African Leadership has not had many winners since its inauguration in 2007. But last week the prize committee finally found a worthy winner in Pedro Verona Pires, who until last month was President of Cape Verde.

The prize rewards democratically elected ex-African leaders for good governance and high quality leadership, respecting their country’s constitution and the democratic system while promoting development.

The award was conspicuous by its absence since Festus Mogae of Botswana won in 2008, highlighting just how much work many African leaders have ahead of them. The award emphasises the importance of the role that Africans themselves have to play in development; not only the continent’s leaders, but the men and women who elect them. It is not enough simply to receive aid and let international organisations and governments dictate how it is spent.  Africans have to be key actors on the development stage.

An example of this can be seen through trade.  The highest tariffs that poor countries face are invariably those imposed by their equally poor neighbours.  Indeed the World Bank found in a 1997 survey that countries in Sub-Saharan Africa imposed an average tariff of 34% on agricultural products from other African nations, and 21% on other products.  That is one reason why there is disproportionately little trade between neighbouring developing countries.  Yet there is evidence that South-South trade (trade between developing countries) has more of a development benefit than North-South trade.

One reason governments of the poorest countries impose such high tariffs is that they are a relatively simple source of revenue to collect.  And although there are ways that donor countries can and should encourage the growth of regional trade hubs, it is ultimately up to developing countries to decide to move away from reliance on levying high tariffs, particularly at their borders with their neighbours.

Mo Ibrahim spoke at the launch of Trade Out of Poverty (TOP) combining his beliefs in the importance of good governance and strong leadership to create the platform for trade to thrive in low income countries.  TOP believes that leaders of developed countries should also show strong leadership by agreeing to give the poorest countries the trade agreements they deserve.

Summary

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation Award for African Leadership has not been awarded for the past two years due to a lack of suitable candidates. However, this year it found a worthy winner in Pedro Verona Pires, former President of Cape Verde.

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