London (AFP) - The Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership -- the world's biggest individual prize -- has no winner for the fourth time in five years, it was announced Monday.
Founder Mo Ibrahim, the Sudan-born telecoms tycoon, defended the decision not to give out the award, telling AFP he would not compromise on the "excellence" required to secure the lucrative prize.
The award, established by Ibrahim in 2007, carries a $5 million (3.7 million euro) 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 award goes to a democratically elected African leader who demonstrated exceptional leadership, served their mandated term and left office in the last three years.
"It's a prize for excellence, and excellence by nature is rare," Ibrahim told AFP.
"What is important here is credibility. To set a really high standard of credibility. Suggest me a name of an excellent European leader who changed his country. Berlusconi?" he asked rhetorically, referring to former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. "You see? Excellence is rare."
He added: "No compromises! This is a prize for people who inspire, who really change the course of their nation.
"By not giving the prize, there is also a strong message behind, which says that there's no exceptional leader. And that's a very strong message."
The Mo Ibrahim Foundation has now awarded the annual prize only three times since it was established, plus two special awards given to South Africa's Nelson Mandela and South African former archbishop Desmond Tutu.
The last laureate was former Cape Verde president Pedro Pires, who won in 2011.
"I'm sure that there are going to be winners in the following years as new African leaders arise," Ibrahim predicted.
"In five or 10 years we'll have a problem because we need to split the prize between two people."
He also refused to widen the remit, saying that in emerging African countries, true power tended to remain in the grip of the presidency, rather than other institutions.
"Of course there are wonderful people in civil society, in parliaments, in the media, there are wonderful writers, scientists. Other people give prizes to those people. But our prize is a prize for presidents," he said.
The London-based foundation also publishes the Ibrahim Index of African Governance, ranking 52 countries according to 94 indicators grouped under safety and the rule of law, participation and human rights, sustainable economic opportunity and human development.
The index found that 94 percent of Africa's population lives in countries which have witnessed an overall improvement in governance since 2000.
It also showed a widening span in performance between the best and worst governed countries.
"This is now the age of Afro-realism -- an honest outlook on our continent. It's about a celebration of its achievements but also a pragmatic acknowledgement of the challenges that lie ahead," Ibrahim said.
The top five countries stayed the same, with Mauritius topping the index with a score of 83 out of 100. Botswana (78) has overtaken Cape Verde (77), ahead of the Seychelles (75) and South Africa (71).
Somalia remained at the bottom with a score of just eight, far behind Democratic Republic of Congo (31), Eritrea (32), Central African Republic (33) and Chad (33).
The data behind the index allows leaders and media to measure a country's performance over time.
The index's biggest risers since 2000 are Liberia, up 25 points to 50 points (currently ranked 29th in Africa), Angola, up 18 points to 45 (ranked 39) and Sierra Leone, up 15 points to 48 (ranked 31).
The biggest fallers since 2000 are Madagascar, down 12 points to 46 points (37th), Eritrea, down six points to 32 (50th) and Guinea-Bissau, down two points to 37 (46th).
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