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MARTIN: Do you think that the prize is having its intended effect?
IBRAHIM: I think so. What we wanted out of the prize, really, is raw attention to the issue of governance and leadership. The week before we announce the winner or the week after, this is the main subject of conversation in every dinner table in Africa. People say, oh, well, why my president didn’t get it? Why this guy got it? Why? Once people start to talk about governance and leadership, that all what we wanted. Once a civil society gets hold of this issue, then our job is done.
MARTIN: What - of the major forces that we are now seeing in Africa - we’re seeing a drive toward entrepreneurship, the roots of which have always been there. We’re seeing a very young population. We are seeing a reverse migration in many ways, so many people who’ve been educated in the west in a previous generation would have stayed in the west are now returning home. We’re also seeing investment, like from China and a number of other countries, but China being the one that gets the most attention. Of all those factors, what do you think is going to be the most transformative?
IBRAHIM: I think the rise of the African civil society is very important and this new generation of young people - and, by the way, half the African people is below 19 years old. We have the most young population anywhere on the planet and this young generation is much better educated than us, than our generation. It’s much better connected to each other, but in our times, many years ago, there was only one newspaper in the country run by the government, one TV station, one radio station, both run by the government. And just to acquire a photocopier, you needed permission from the police.
Now, it is different, so the flow of information - this connected young people who receive better education than us who are not afraid. They are asking the questions. Why is that our standard of living? You know, Africa is rich as a continent. Why are we poor? That’s the question. And when people start to ask that question certain conclusions will be reached and that is very important. So I’m really quite optimistic about the future of Africa, given this vibrant, young generation of people.
MARTIN: What do think you…
IBRAHIM: African women also are very important.
Mobile communications entrepreneur, billionaire, and philanthropist, Mohamed ‘Mo’ Ibrahim is optimistic about the continent’s future.