Hifikepunye Pohamba, Namibia’s outgoing President has been announced as this year’s Mo Ibrahim prize recipient, an accolade more commonly known for being the world’s most valuable individual award at $5 million.
The distinction, which is strictly given to an elected African leader who has shown good governance, raised living standards within their respective country, then left office has been forfeited four times in the past five years due to a lack of suitable recipients.
President Pohamba, who first came to power in Namibia in 2004, was born in northern Namibia in 1935, an area of the country that would become the heartland of the Swapo liberation movement less than thirty years later, eventually becoming a formal political party and the current government of Namibia.
As a close ally of the Ovamboland People’s Organisation, the movement that eventually became Swapo, Mr. Pohamba was a known political activist and was charged on multiple occasions for agitating against South African rule.
Only 14 years after Namibia’s independence, the 79 year old veteran served as President for two terms and is expected to be succeeded by President-elect, Hage Geingob after his tenure expires on the 21st March this year.
Established in 2006, Dr. Mo Ibrahim created the eponymous foundation as a way of focusing on the importance of leadership and governance in Africa. As a highly successful philanthropist and businessman, Dr. Ibrahim founded telecommunications giant Celtel International in 1998, which he eventually sold for over $3 billion. Outside of the honour of the award itself, the recipient can expect a financial bonus in the form of an initial payment of $5 million, and a supplemental lifetime income of $200,000 per year for life. To date, only five people have claimed the prestigious award, including the late South African President, Nelson Mandela.