Update to 2011 Africa Prize Recipients Q&A

What is the Africa Prize for Leadership?

In 1987, The Hunger Project (THP) launched the Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger to call forth the committed, effective leadership that Africa desperately needs. The Africa Prize honors a distinguished African man or woman who has exhibited past and present and ongoing exceptional leadership in bringing about the sustainable end of hunger at the national, regional or continent-wide level.

The criteria for eligibility include:

  • Nominees must be living African nationals.
  • Only individuals are eligible.
  • Past Africa Prize laureates are not eligible.
  • Hunger Project staff or immediate families of Hunger Project staff are not eligible.

The prize is not awarded every year, but rather on the basis of merit. The 2011 prize was announced on July 13 and had two recipients: Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika, President of Malawi, and Dr. Florence Chenoweth, Liberia’s Minister for Agriculture. 

Further information and a list of previous Africa Prize laureates is available here.

Why did The Hunger Project decide to award the Africa Prize to Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika, President of Malawi?

As described in our announcement of the prize, President Mutharika has spent his career working towards sustainable food security in Africa and the empowerment of those most vulnerable on the continent. One of his greatest achievements in food security has been the Farm Input Subsidy Program of 2005. This program has played an instrumental role in restoring national food security and enabled Malawi to become a food basket capable not only of supporting its own basic needs, but of exporting food to other African countries.

During his year as chairperson of the African Union (January 2010-2011), President Mutharika continued his work to ensure the sustainability of local farming by launching the African Food Basket Initiative — putting food security firmly on the African political map.

Why has THP now decided not to award the Africa Prize to President Mutharika?

Given the current crisis situation in Malawi, including serious, unanswered questions with regard to the government’s role in the unprecedented violent events of July 20-21, THP’s Global Board and senior staff, in consultation with the independent jury, decided to withdraw the Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger from President Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi. While we do acknowledge the past accomplishments of the President for the sustainable end of hunger, this award is given not only in recognition for achievements, but also for ongoing leadership and the prospects for future progress to end hunger. 

Who made the decision to award the prize?

The recipients of the Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger are selected by a distinguished independent jury chosen by the leadership of THP. Our standing jury consists of two laureates from previous years, as well as experts in the fields of health, nutrition, social entrepreneurship and women’s leadership, all with experience in Africa. Five of the seven jury members, including the chair, are African.

The jury for the 2011 Africa Prize is comprised of the following members:

  • Salim A. Salim, Chair, Former Prime Minister of Tanzania and Former Chair of the Organization of African Unity
  • Meaza Ashenafi, Founder, Ethiopian Women Lawyers Assocation (EWLA) and 2003 Africa Prize Laureate
  • Sara Longwe, The African Women's Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), Zambia and 2003 Africa Prize Laureate
  • Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Managing Director, World Bank
  • Josephine Ouedraogo, Executive Director, Environmental Development Action (ENDA)
  • Prabhu Pingali, Deputy Director for Agricultural Development Policy, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • M.S. Swaminathan, Chair, M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation

Who made the decision to rescind the Africa Prize to President Mutharika?

The decision was made on August 1, 2011 by the leadership of THP in New York City and our Board in consultation with the independent jury that awarded the prize. Our discussions were kept internal so as not to be influenced by any individual, groups, institutions or governments.

Have you spoken to President Mutharika since you have decided to withdraw the prize?

No. We shared our final decision with the Malawi mission to the United Nations in New York City as we did our initial decision. We have asked them to inform the President.

Was the prize jury aware of the problems in Malawi before making its award?

It would be difficult if not impossible to identify any world leader who is not subject to criticism, or to identify any emerging country in Africa that is not experiencing political and economic difficulties. That being said, the jury looked carefully at recent issues and controversies in Malawi and concluded at the time that the President’s long record of working toward sustainable food security in Africa merited recognition. However, the unprecedented events of July 20-21, as well as subsequent reports of mass arrests and official censorship of news organizations and social media, led us to conclude that an award would not be appropriate in the midst of governmental crisis and uncertainty.

Was anyone else consulted about the decision to bestow or rescind the award, such as your local staff in Malawi?

No. The decision was made solely by THP leadership staff and Board, in consultation with the independent jury. 

Other prominent Malawians were recipients of the Africa Prize. Did they have any influence on the decision to award or withdraw the prize to Mutharika?

No previous Malawian recipients of the prize were consulted on the decision to award the prize nor on the decision to withdraw it. These decisions were made independently at an international level; as a matter of principle we would not involve anyone who was working directly with the Malawian government.

Does The Hunger Project plan to continue its efforts in Malawi?

Absolutely. THP has been working in Malawi since 1999 and we remain fully committed to working for the general well-being of the people and to empower women and men to end their own hunger. Through our integrated approach to rural development, the Epicenter Strategy, THP is working in co-equal partnership with over 100,000 local villagers to:

Increase food security – THP empowers and supports farmers with trainings and materials to increase and diversify food production.

Improve health and hygiene – Through epicenter health centers, THP conducts trainings of traditional birth attendants, mobilizes community leaders to provide bed nets and implements HIV/AIDS voluntary counseling and testing programs. More than 215,000 people have participated in THP-Malawi’s HIV/AIDS Gender Inequality Workshop.

Encourage self-reliance through microfinance – In 2010 alone, THP disbursed over 1,100 loans totaling approximately US $87,000. In addition, community members in Malawi deposited nearly US $12,000 in savings during the year.  

For more information on our work in Malawi, please click here.

Will Dr. Florence Chenoweth, Liberia’s Minister of Agriculture, still receive her prize?

Yes. The prize will be awarded to Dr. Chenoweth at a black-tie event in New York City on October 22, 2011. Dr. Chenoweth will be presented with a sculpture by the famed artist Takenobu Igarashi and a cash award of US $50,000 to further her work for the sustainable end of hunger. For more about our award to Dr. Chenowith and her bio click here.