Do you know who won the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership this year? Nobody. Why is that news? Because it's a sad day when because of recent setbacks the committee could not select a winner. Ken Herman writes an excellent article in the Statesman, "Africa: Time for front-burner attention is now":
The prize goes to a democratically elected African head of state who left office within the previous three years. There is perhaps no other continent so desperately in need of democratically elected leaders worth honoring. John Kufuor of Ghana was a contender, as were ex-Presidents Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Olusegon Obasanjo of Nigeria...
Unfortunately, "setbacks" are not news in Africa. It remains a deeply-troubled continent, a situation made more precarious by China's growing influence and investment in it.
Disease, human rights, violence, economic, you name a problem and Africa struggles with it. In our lifetimes, the names of African nations have become synonymous with strife: Biafra, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Somalia, Burundi, Sudan, etc.
In Guinea, ruled by a military junta, the United Nations is looking into last month's incident in which troops went into a soccer stadium and gunned down 150 opposition demonstrations.
In Zimbabwe, the inflation rate — fueled by government printing presses trying to keep up with an unsustainable budget deficit — was 11.2 million percent last year. According to the CIA's World Factbook in 2003 a Zimbabwean dollar was worth one U.S. dollar. By September 2007, one U.S. dollar was equal to 30,000 Zimbabwean dollars.There are plenty more African countries with plenty more problems. But somehow there always seems to be something more pressing with which to deal.
The prize was established in 2007 by Mo Ibrahim, a billionaire who made his money through his African telecommunications company. Winners are picked by a committee led by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, 2008 Nobel Peace Prize winner Martti Ahtisaari of Finland, former President Mary Robinson of Ireland and Mohamed El Baradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency and others.
Mr. Herman shares an old joke, "What would the Middle East be without oil? ....... Africa." Well the jokes on us because "According to the Council on Foreign Relations, Africa has 9 percent of the world's proven oil reserves and there could be additional "significant undiscovered reserves." ... "And that's why China (which gets about one-third of its oil imports from Africa) is so interested and involved in the continent."
China strikes again.