Tuesday, October 21, 2008



October 21, 2008
Xinhua and Agencies

Botswana’s former President Festus Mogae has won a $5m (£2.8m) prize to encourage good governance in Africa. He stepped down in April after serving two terms in office. Botswana is one of Africa’s most stable countries - it has never had a coup and has had regular multi-party elections since independence in 1966.

Announcing the prize, ex-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan also commended Mr Mogae for his action to tackle the Aids pandemic which has ravaged the country. The Ibrahim Prize - the most valuable individual annual prize in the world - was set up by Sudan-born telecoms entrepreneur Mo Ibrahim.

As well as the $5m prize, Mr Mogae also gets $200,000 a year for the rest of his life. Botswana is rich in diamonds but unlike other resource-rich countries in Africa, this has not become a source of conflict. Former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano won the inaugural prize last year. Before assuming the presidency, Mogae had been part and parcel of the management of Botswana’s economy for decades.

This economy has been hailed as a model of excellence, achieving high growth rates, recording impressive budget surpluses and maintaining huge foreign reserves when other countries are plagued by insurmountable debt. However, this immaculate achievement at a macro-economic level has for a long time been accompanied by high levels of unemployment, unacceptable levels of poverty and gross inequalities.

Over-reliance on diamonds National prosperity has co-existed with deprivation for significant sections of the population. When Mogae assumed the reigns of power in 1998, the country had just adopted a long-term vision which promised to change radically the economic landscape by 2016, when the country would be celebrating 50 years of independence.