Mo Ibrahim and the dawn of new Africa
Posted Sunday, February 24 2013 at 02:00
INSIDE OUT. The world is waking up to a new Africa, one that is a fertile land for investment opportunities. But the clichés of hungry children with stretched arms seeking help, continues to undermine this new enthusiasm.
Some time back, I was watching an interview with Mo Ibrahim, a name that is very well known to most Africans, not only because he is recognised as the “most powerful black man in Briton”, but also for his foundation that sponsors ‘The Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership”.
This prize aims at celebrating and rewarding excellence in African leadership. It recognises those leaders who not only helped the prosperity of their countries and its citizens, but who also had a futuristic vision of development and growth. It also encourages such leaders to share the wealth of experience they obtained in their offices with others.
Partners in the cause
In the above interview, there were two aspects that glued me to the screen and moved my sense of curiosity in exploring more about Ibrahim and his foundation. The first aspect was that his very beautiful and witty daughter Hadeel, who is also the Executive Director of the Mo Ibrahim Prize Foundation, was seated next to him. Hadeel was sharing her views on equal basis with her father, and at certain points you could see a father who not only is very proud of and encouraging his daughter, he also has very high esteem for her views and contributions to the foundation.
In asking for excellence at its highest levels, Ibrahim seems to recognise the fact that having women like his daughter by his side, is one of the best ways of reaching excellence that has to first start within such a leading foundation that expects the same from other leaders. He seems to have acknowledged the fact that women are not there to compete with men, rather to accompany them on the path of perfection. A journey that is not based on gender, but on the diversity of input and efforts to attain such a high station that should be the aim of every human being.
Answering the call to make a difference
The second aspect in this interview was what Ibrahim talked about the reasons behind setting up such a foundation, and the huge amount awarded to African leaders who according to the interview moderator, were already wealthy people. He said that by giving this prize they are encouraging such previous leaders to come forth and start their own projects and organisations that help others, like what President Clinton does. The prize also introduces and brings to light such great leaders to a world that has one cliché in mind about African leaders, one of corruption and overstaying in power.
Beyond pale skinny children
This last elaboration struck a chord with me, because I get extremely annoyed whenever a weak image of Africa is portrayed, one that shows skinny hungry children arising their hands, begging for food.
And how is it that only this sticks in the minds of people and everyone seems to forget that Africa is actually a very rich continent in every sense.
In his latest speech Ibrahim said : “It is not the role of our foundation to cheerlead or denigrate Africa. We must be just as critical of those who seek to hide the challenges we face, as those who seek to present Africa as a continent of victims. It is our role to speak the truth as we find it and stimulate debate about the issues that matter most.”
I remember that once in a conference abroad, the speaker was talking about prosperity and while mentioning extreme poverty, the power point presentation kept portraying images of hungry African children in the background. A lady who was seated next to me said: I bet you see a lot of those in Africa every day! After the conference I approached the lady and explained to her some facts about the wealthy side of Africa.
I am quite sure that Mo Ibrahim’s initiative will play a great role, but it is also upon each lover of Africa to help modify the negative picture so far portrayed about Africa.