A Sudanese billionaire is putting up millions in prize money to promote good governance in Africa _ and to encourage leaders on the world's poorest continent to step down once their democratic mandates have expired.
Judges of the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership will rate 53 African countries each year on progress in economy, health, education and security.
Each leader awarded the prize will receive $5 million spread over 10 years after leaving office. If still alive when the initial prize is exhausted, prize-winners will receive another $200,000 annually until they die.
In an opinion piece published in The Guardian newspaper on Thursday, Ibrahim said he was trying in part to address reluctance to relinquish power on a continent where military dictators and presidents for life have long held sway.
''A situation in which leaders face three choices _ relative poverty, term extension, or corruption _ is not conducive to good governance,'' Ibrahim wrote in The Guardian. ''And the continent's problems will not be solved unless governance improves radically.''
The statement announcing the prize on Thursday included endorsements from former South African President Nelson Mandela, who served one term, and African Union chief Alpha Konare, who stepped down as Mali's president after completing the constitutionally allowed two terms. Other African presidents, however, have abrogated constitutional term limits in order to hold onto power.
The prize _ the largest of its kind, surpassing the $1.4 million Nobel Peace Prize _ will be awarded based on criteria developed by Robert Rotberg, a professor at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government Policy, and given each year as long as there is a candidate who meets the criteria. The first prize will be awarded late next year.
Ibrahim sold his Celtel International, an African cell phone network, for $3.3 billion in 2005.
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