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Former Cape Verde president wins $5 million award

By Karen Smith, CNN
October 10, 2011 -- Updated 1604 GMT (0004 HKT)
Former president of Cape Verde, Pedro Verona Rodrigues Pires, pictured in February 2006.
Former president of Cape Verde, Pedro Verona Rodrigues Pires, pictured in February 2006.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mo Ibrahim Prize winners receive $5 million and $200,000 a year for life
  • Committee: Pedro Verona Pires reformed Cape Verde's government and economy
  • Pires is the first winner in three years

(CNN) -- A $5 million prize for excellence in African leadership was awarded to former Cape Verde President Pedro Verona Pires in London on Monday.

Pires was recognized for helping transform the government and economy of Cape Verde, according to the Mo Ibrahim Prize Committee.

"The Prize Committee has been greatly impressed by President Pedro Pires's vision in transforming Cape Verde into a model of democracy, stability and increased prosperity," said committee chairman Salim Ahmed Salim.

Under Pires' presidency, Cape Verde became the second African country to graduate from the United Nations' list of least developed countries.

Launched in 2007, the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership is awarded to candidates who demonstrate "good governance and great leadership" during their time in office, according to a statement from the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. Democratically elected African presidents and prime ministers who have left office within the last three years are eligible for the prize.

In the last two years, the London-based foundation has decided not to award the prize because the committee could not select a winner.

The $5 million prize is distributed over 10 years. Winners also receive an additional $200,000 a year for life.

The seven-member Ibrahim Prize Committee is chaired by Salim, the former Prime Minister of Tanzania, and includes global figures such as Graca Machel, wife of Nelson Mandela, and Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and former U.N. high commissioner for human rights.

Previous winners of the award include Botswana ex-President Festus Mogae in 2008 and Mozambique ex-President Joaquim Chissano in 2007.

Ibrahim, a Sudanese-born telecommunications businessman and billionaire, created the foundation bearing his name in 2006. The foundation uses 88 criteria to rate the governing of African countries.

According to the 2011 index, the top-governed African nations are Mauritius, Cape Verde, Botswana, Seychelles and South Africa.

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