Africa has been plagued by strongmen who cling to power forever, in part because, in many impoverished countries, controlling the government is the surest route to personal wealth. But when former Cape Verdean President Pedro Pires became a millionaire last week, it wasn’t because he stole from his citizens or took kickbacks from foreign corporations. Instead, he became the third winner of the $5 million Mo Ibrahim Prize, which rewards democratically elected African leaders who practice good governance and then peacefully step aside. It was created by a Sudanese entrepreneur to encourage African heads of state to avoid the temptations of dictatorship.
Sadly, Pires was the first winner in three years because there have been no suitable candidates. Despite its lack of natural resources, Cape Verde became one of the most prosperous and free nations in Africa under Pires’s steady governance. Hopefully, Pires’s prize will inspire other leaders to govern for their people and not themselves.