New Internationalist

Mo Better Blues

Issue 398

So you’re one of Africa’s wealthiest individuals, having made a killing in the telecoms industry. You’ve just sold your company to a Kuwaiti transnational for squillions and now you’re experiencing the first symptoms of a syndrome that afflicts many of the world’s über-capitalists – the dreaded Bill Gates Disease (BGD).

Yes, Mohammed Ibrahim – ‘Mo’ to all your chums at Davos – we feel your pain. Those strange guilt-twinged charitable impulses are said to be rather awkward and off-putting at first, but soon they will subside as you settle into your new ultra-philanthropist persona. Seriously would like to congratulate Mr Ibrahim on the unique path he has chosen to show off his new post-corporate colours. Not content to follow in the well-trodden footsteps of Bill (and Melinda), Mo knows better. While the Gateses harp on about the children, Ibrahim wants to save the poor and unfortunate dictators of Africa.

Yes, you heard that right. Ibrahim, flush with cash after selling off his company Celtel (a controversial sponsor of this year’s World Social Forum in Kenya) to MTC for $3.4 billion, is offering a ‘prize’ of $5 million plus $200,000 every year thereafter to one lucky African despot. All the prospective candidate needs to do is volunteer to leave office if the electorate asks them to, desist from theft and promote ‘good governance’ in the country of his or her rule (in other words, do what they are supposed to do). The prize, the largest of its kind in the world (Nobel laureates rake in a mere $1.3 million not including sponsorship deals), has provoked outrage from African civil society groups and scholars. Some have argued that the prize would have been better spent funding campaigns to drop the debt, reform the global economy and reign in corporate power.

But Ibrahim has been wowing audiences with his heartbreaking accounts of the plight of Africa’s kleptocrats. Pointing out how former US and British leaders can look forward to promising careers on the global lecture circuits, the Sudan-born Ibrahim told British newspaper The Independent: ‘Our guys have no life after office… Suddenly, all the mansions, cars, food, wine, is withdrawn. Some find it difficult to rent a house in the capital.’ Aw, the poor dears!

So next time you open your purse-strings and heart for the world’s needy, spare a thought for the deprived dictators of the world. Sponsor a despot today!

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