FOR the second year running the Ibrahim Prize of three million pounds has not been awarded. Surely there must have been a brilliant book, or some scientific discovery or even positive steps to world peace that would have justified the money being handed over? The trouble is that this particular prize is confined to Africans and not just any African -- contenders have to be democratically elected heads of government who have agreed to resign office within the stated constitutional time limits of their country. When the jury sat down to choose the winner for 2010 they realised that only one leader qualified -- Thabo Mbeki of South Africa whose departure from the presidency last year was voluntary but who apparently failed to satisfy the criteria for the prize because he was forced from power by his own party. The roll call of African leaders who have remained in office for several terms of office, without the benefit of elections. is long. President Mugabe of Zimbabwe has been in power since 1980 and there are others who come close to challenging his record.

The Sudanese businessman who inaugurated this prize, Mo Ibrahim, is not discouraged. He said this week that he intends to set up a foundation to train potential African leaders in the principles of democracy and government. In the meantime he will continue to offer the three million pound prize each year for what he calls an “aspirational achievement”.