updated 10/26/2006 11:07:45 AM ET 2006-10-26T15:07:45

A self-made Sudanese millionaire is offering African politicians an annual prize worth $5 million if they avoid being seduced by power and corruption.

Mo Ibrahim said on Thursday the prize would be presented to former leaders who had demonstrated excellence in government.

“Nothing, simply nothing, is more important to African development than good governance. Today, I am launching a foundation which aims to change fundamentally the choices faced by African leaders,” said Ibrahim.

South Africa’s elder statesman Nelson Mandela, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz welcomed the initiative.

The $5 million prize will be paid over 10 years and the winners will then receive $200,000 a year for life.

Striving for the right conditions
Promoting good governance and rooting out corruption is regarded as key to creating the right conditions for economic development in the world’s poorest continent.

Western powers have sought to promote good governance and democratic reforms in Africa by making debt relief and extra aid conditional on performance.

Ibrahim hopes the prize will inspire African leaders to deliver security, health, education and economic development to their people. An index will be used to measure and benchmark performance in each African country.

He said African leaders often risked losing the trappings of power and financial security when they left office and this could incite some to cling on to power, and corruption.

Leaders from Uganda, Guinea, Gabon, Burkina Faso, Congo Republic and Chad have used constitutional change to extend their rule. A similar bid was defeated in Nigeria this year.

“I commend this vision which is a laudable initiative to acknowledge statesmanship and purposeful leadership,” said Alpha Konare, chair of the African Union and a former president of Mali who won praise for stepping down when his mandate expired.

“It should help to encourage good governance, the rule of law and the entrenchment of democracy with all its principles.”

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