Mo Ibrahim: Fight for a more transparent world

Lauren PfeiferONE’s policy associate for transparency and accountability, shares her anecdotes of a night spent at the Africare gala.

mo1Former Brazilian President and Mo Ibrahim shared the stage. Photo credit: http://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/

This weekend, Africare hosted its annual gala, the 2013 Bishop John T. Walker Memorial Dinner in Washington, DC. The annual dinner is a very hot ticket for DC’s development community, and the attendee list is chock-full of friends who have for years worked tirelessly for the world’s poorest.

The dinner honored President Obama, who donated $100,000 of his Nobel Peace Prize award to support an Africare water and sanitation project in Ghana. A video message from the President – and the subsequent speech by White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough – praised Africare’s work and reiterated the US’s ambition for an AIDS-free generation.

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva gave an impassioned speech, stressing the importance of cooperation between governments and the private sector to build the infrastructure needed to help tackle poverty in Africa. President Lula’s speech directly preceded the awarding of the 2013 Africare Leadership Award to Dr. Mo Ibrahim, ONE board member and friend. Dr. Ibrahim made his fortune in telecommunications, as founder of Celtel International, one of Africa’s most successful businesses. In 2006, he founded the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, committed to promoting good governance and great leadership on the African continent. The Ibrahim Foundation’s annual Ibrahim Index of African Governance ranks African countries based on critical governance criteria. See how countries fared in last year’s index.

Dr. Ibrahim’s acceptance speech touched on the importance of accountable governments, the transformational power of technology, and the two things that will change Africa, “youth and women is really what is going to change Africa,” he said. One of the most memorable moments was Mo’s assertion that despite African agreement that regional integration is important for their collective economies, progress is elusive. Using the American catchphrase, he asked, “Where’s the beef?”

mo2Africare gala celebrating the progress thus far and challenging attendees to look to the future. Photo credit: Lauren Pfeifer

But what Dr. Ibrahim knows best is the importance of good governance for the creation of inclusive and successful societies and economies. “We need to demand also good corporate governance,” he said, stressing the importance of clean governments and corporate governance, and the inextricable link between them. You cannot battle corruption with only one or the other. He cited the millions upon millions that are lost to illegal activities such as corruption, tax evasion and trade mispricing.

Mo’s final message: we need to fight for a more transparent world.

Listen to the rest of Mo’s speech here.

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