Ibrahim blasts Africa's ageing leaders

JOHANNESBURG - Sudanese-born billionaire Mo Ibrahim has castigated Africa’s ageing leaders for crowding out young blood.

The philanthropist said the average age of leaders on the African continent was around 60 years, yet half of the population was under the age of 19.

Speaking at a lecture in honour of South Arica’s first black president Nelson Mandela, the businessman drew comparisons between African and American leaders.

“(Barack) Obama became president when he was 47 years old, actually Bill Clinton beat him, he became president when he was 46 years old.

“People in their 40s are being elected to run a country which is not only the greatest superpower, but has a GDP ... of $15-trillion dollars a year, 15 times the total economy of Africa.”

“And here we have somebody in a neighbouring country, at 90 about to start a new term. What’s wrong with us?” Ibrahim said, alluding to Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, who at 89 was last month re-elected in disputed polls that extended his 33-year rule by a fresh five-year term.

Ibrahim said had Obama’s father taken him back to Kenya when he was still a boy, “where would he be today? My guess, he would never (have) been president of Kenya.”

He urged Africa to create space for young people to help in running and developing the continent.

“That is the challenge we need to think of,” said Ibrahim, who is in his sixties.

Ibrahim also said South Africa should show the quality of leadership befitting the continent’s wealthiest economy.

“We look up to you. We have a serious deficit. South Africa needs to step up and play a better role,” he said. Adding that leadership was not about having a seat on the UN Security Council or chairing the African Union.

South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was last year elected chairperson of the AU.

“This is the least equitable country in the whole world. After 20 years of independence (from apartheid rule), one can ask ‘what is going on here?’,” said Ibrahim.

His foundation annually ranks African countries according to 88 indicators, and South African had improved in terms of rural development from 31 in 2000 to 22 last year.

That is a “marked” improvement, but “not fantastic,” he said.

The telecoms tycoon has set up the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, the world’s biggest individual prize, awarded to a democratically-elected African leader who has served their mandated term and left office in the last three years.

Last year it was not awarded for a third time in four years as no suitable candidates were found.

Launched in 2006, it carries a $5 million prize paid over 10 years and $200 000 annually for life from then on, with a further $200 000 per year available for 10 years for good causes backed by the winner.

The inaugural prize went to former president Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique in 2007 and Botswana’s ex-president Festus Mogae won in 2008.

Former Cape Verde president Pedro Pires won the 2011 prize.


Comments (17)

It therefore means someone I know who is 900 years old north of the Limpopo is out of competition. Shame heh! The prize money is just good but still 900 yr old could not go for it. Iiiih tough and tight.

watanga - 26 August 2013

Kabila in the DRC is very young and is the DRC doing any better?? McCain was running for President in the USA at what age again?? Israel has a President who is how old?? Please this idiot must stop making empty baseless comparisons!!!! Please!!!

admire musingarabwi - 26 August 2013

frankly, I dont think age has anything to do with anything..the punk rocker in North Korea is in his early thirties ditto the former DJ in Madagascar. I think those harping on about Mr. Mugabe's age are totally missing the larger picture which should be about deliverables not his age. If anything his age is actually an advantage not the other way round as it is a known truth that experience is the best teacher! That said, there is no harm in grooming someone to take over at some point in the future.

gutter poet - 26 August 2013

I totally agree with Mo Ibrahim.

tomasi tohwi - 26 August 2013

Age is just a number. The main thing needed to lead a country is wisdom and that come from being with God inside you. If there is not God inside you then whether 30 years or 90 years, you will still fail in leading. Obama without God is failing the lead USA. The last to lead well was Abraham Loncolin, because God was in him and could actually see visions from the Lord.

martin - 26 August 2013

Age has everything to do with leadership of a country. A sane person knows that. Mugabe has failed as a leader and to hope that he will be a better leader at 89 is pathetic. Africans must learn to profile their leaders and stop being driven by emotions. Thank you Ibrahim for saying IT as it is

Mpiwa - 26 August 2013

Born frees learn this. 1-MUGABE IN 1989- Ministers including Enos Nkala bought cheap gvt cars from Willowvale- @ $200 and sold for a profit $600.(willowgate scandal) Mugabes verdict- Minister Nkala was fired from cabinet and others like Morris Nyagumbo commited suicide. 2- MUGABE IN 1999- Minister Kangai looted $ 11million meant to buy grain to feed the whole nation Mugabes verdict- Mugabe 'punished' Minister Kangai by reassigning him to another ministerial post. 3 MUGABE IN 2009 Minister Mpofu failed to account for billions of diamond money meant to finance national fiscus Mugabes verdict- Old and wasted Mugabe is now a see no evil and hear no evil deadwood symbolical president.

Huzvu - 26 August 2013

Mo Ibrahim should go back to Sudan and give aid there where the government there is struggling to subsist. America has been ruled by very old Presidents and in Africa we are not going to follow America's example in everything although we should learn from everything we see. When next time America elects a 10 year old President what do we do? Or when in the not so distant future you have the first gay couple in White House what do we do our own State Houses? Ibrahim's emphasis on the trillion dollars that the Americans have is as if to say the Americans have money and their acts are automatically right and magna carta for political perfection. He also feels that he aught to be listened to because he has money. God forbid! Democracy in Africa must be built around the continent's political and economic needs. You can learn from other people's histories but a sure recipe for disaster is trying to live other people's histories. Steve Biko said "History moves in a logical direction to a logical end" Ours is to listen to the rhythm of that logic of history and conform to its peculiar demands. Democracies and political practices have household patents that must be respected. Like wives and husbands democracies should not be communalised in terms of uses. In fact the true spirit of democracy accepts anything no matter how wildly different from the other. If American democracy and practices are to dominate global political space, then it will soon be a dictatorship of a system of democratic values against others. So Ibrahim should make money in silence, politics is not his cup of tea.

Rugare KwaMuri Mose - 27 August 2013

There is so much eulogy for Mandela's decision to leave the Presidency, what did it give South Africans. Get your calculator and give me the figure. Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe for three decades, give me the calculate and a fair audience and I will tell you what Zimbabweans got from him. So the abdication of the throne must not be enjoyed for its sake like a narcotic drug. Drugs give users a false sense of satisfaction with life yet the real effect is a placebo one. The Mandela effect on South Africa is turning into a placebo one. What is the net benefit for the South Africans for his 27 years of brutal incarceration? Only the right to vote?

Munene Munyonho - 27 August 2013

Even if Mugabe was 23 he still is not a good leader period. It is not his age it is his appetite for fixing others, vindictiveness, vengefulness and munondidii attitude and with all this he has managed to destroy the jewel of Africa. He is always at other people's throats so he has no time for the country, if he is not on our throats he is in plane.

maita - 27 August 2013

Kikiki, it looks like you are running out of worthy news. This story was there about a fortnight ago and its news to you today. Well the British puppet must concentrate on his war torn Sudan. Age is only a number . You can't vote for an idiotic younger puppet in place of an old wise man. That will be recipe for disaster.

reason - 27 August 2013


Munhu Chaiye - 27 August 2013

And Mugabe said he is planting a 2 trillion economy in the next five years when Africa in its entirety is less than one trillion why do people decide to lie like this why do leaders take people for granted

masara - 27 August 2013

I salute Mo Ibrahim! Robert McGarbage is a liability to the nation

Ghoko Rukuruva - 27 August 2013

Mo Ibrahim is a billionaire giving you sound advice yet you insult him. If Mugabe has done any better, why were the shops empty in 2007? why are our roads full of pot holes? You defend Mugabe and his idiots who are living large while the rest of the country sits in the dark with no water..wake up Zimbabweans, we are on a train with a driver who is fast asleep and the train is full of conductors accusing us all of not paying our tickets.

travis - 27 August 2013

No ways, Ibrahim is wicked. His own home Sudan country is in serious political and economic mess! He has guts to point a finger at our icon of Africa because today he has amassed filth riches. To hell with your theories you false-prophet MoIbrahim. Your teachings are pleasant to puppets like Nelson Mandela not our Robert Gabriel Mugabe.

PasinaMoIbrahim - 28 August 2013

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