A Nobel for Honest Politicians

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But not if its leaders have their hands in the till, which chokes off investment and enterprise on which development depends. Foreign aid donors have been trying to tackle this problem in the way they administer (and deny) grants, with some success, and African leaders have started a "peer review" system to compare notes, but both efforts are constrained by diplomatic proprieties. Ibrahim, who says he's been thinking for years about what he could do to help the continent that made him rich, knows his private money has the freedom to make a few waves. And while his prize has guaranteed a lot of attention, the guts of his foundation's work is a new system to publicize the successes and failures of African leaders — the Ibrahim Index. Under the direction of Harvard Professor Robert Rotberg, it will set out objective measures of how the 48 sub-Saharan African countries are performing in many areas, from corruption to judicial independence to respect for human rights to the delivery of health and education.

Ibrahim's big idea is using the prize and the index to create a new tool to help people hold their politicians to account. "We will name and shame," Ibrahim says. "We don't want good governance to be about &leaderacute; hiring a good speechwriter and winging it," but "real, measurable progress in people's lives. We need to give facts to the people so they can ask, 'What am I getting out of my leader here?' And having done that, we really want to celebrate the leaders who do well. Running an African country is the toughest job in the world. And if you do manage to take five million people out of poverty, or get clean water to people or educate kids, a $5 million reward is peanuts."

Harnessing the power of popular opinion to prod a whole continent to do better is a 21st century kind of philanthropy, quite different from setting up hospitals and libraries. But Ibrahim has touched a chord. He has backing from a host of luminaries, including Bill Clinton, Kofi Annan, Tony Blair, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz and former Irish President Mary Robinson. Nelson Mandela endorses the idea too: "This will allow Africans to measure their leaders against the highest standards of good governance," he says "It is appropriate that this will be the largest prize in the world. Nothing is more important. It aims to deliver the biggest prize of all: helping to ensure that our rich continent becomes a prosperous one for all its people."

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