The disclosure was made recently during an Atlantic Council Front Page event. Being a well-known Afro-optimist, Ibrahim has invested in the continent’s democratic progress and has focused on tackling practical governance issues.
Ibrahim warned that 2020 has brought not only the COVID crisis to Africa, but also worrying signs about the state of governance on the continent. He also harped on the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has stressed economies and societies around the world, and stressed that in Africa the crisis risks reversing the governance and development successes of the last few decades.
While the pandemic has exposed such problems across the world, he noted, one of its lessons is that Africa must be “more self-sufficient” and “resilient.”
Despite hurdles to improved governance, Ibrahim was hopeful for continued democratic change in Africa, particularly as the growing youth population begins to flex its political muscles. “Our future is in the hands of these young people,” he said, pointing to the role youth played in the peaceful ousting of former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
Although the continent faces considerable challenges in the COVID era, “This young generation is far better equipped than older generations to deal with these issues,” Ibrahim argued. “They are better educated, better informed” than many older Africans, and the youth have deeper experience with the internet and other digital skills.
In order to harness the growth and talent of this new generation, however, “the education system in Africa needs to improve with time,” he said. “We need more technical schools, we need people who can fix tractors, who can build roads, who can build dams,” he argued. For too long, the school system was primarily “built upon just producing clerks” for government jobs, he explained. “We don’t need clerks; we need dirty hands who are educated.”
Mohammed “Mo” Ibrahim, born 3 May 1946, is a Sudanese-British billionaire businessman. He worked for several telecommunications companies, before founding Celtel, which when sold had more than 24 million mobile phone subscribers in 14 African countries.
Upon selling Celtel in 2005 for $3.4 billion, he set up the Mo Ibrahim Foundation to inspire better governance in Africa, as well as creating the Mo Ibrahim Index, to appraise nations’ performance. He is also a member of the Africa regional advisory board of London Business School.
In 2007 he introduced the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, which awards a $5 million initial payment, and a $200,000 annual payment for life to African heads of state who deliver security, health, education and economic development to their constituents and democratically transfer power to their successors. Ibrahim has pledged to give at least half of his wealth to charity by joining The Giving Pledge.