NIGER’S President Mahamadou Issoufou, who’s due to step down next month after serving two terms, was named the 2020 winner of the world’s largest leadership prize – a $5 million award made by Sudanese billionaire Mo Ibrahim’s foundation.
Issoufou is the sixth winner of the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership since it was introduced in 2006 to promote good governance in the world’s poorest continent. Previous recipients include former presidents Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, Festus Mogae of Botswana and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia.
‘In the face of the most severe political and economic issues, including violent extremism and increasing desertification,’ President Mahamadou Issoufou has led his people on a path of progress,’ Mogae, who chairs the Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s prize committee, said in a statement on Monday. ‘Today, the number of Nigeriens living below the poverty line has fallen to 40 percent, from 48 percent a decade ago.’
Issoufou, 69, first took office in 2011 after years of political instability in the West African nation, including four coups since independence from France in 1960, and won re-election in 2016.
He’s set to be succeeded by his close ally Mohamed Bazoum, 61, a former interior and foreign minister, who won a run-off vote against ex-president Mahamane Ousmane on Feb. 21. The election paved the way for Niger’s first transfer of power by the ballot box.
The vote was followed by widespread protests and Internet shutdowns. Opposition leader Hama Amadou, who was barred from running and backed Ousmane in the run-off, was arrested and charged with trying to overthrow the government.
Niger, the world’s fifth-biggest uranium exporter, ranks as the world’s least-developed country among 189 in the United Nations’ Human Development Index.
Ibrahim started Celtel International BV. in 1998 and built it up to be Africa’s third-largest mobile phone company. Kuwaiti mobile-phone operator Zain bought 85 percent of Celtel for $3.4bn in 2005.