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Cape Verde is held up as an example to Africa.

One of only a few countries ever to be promoted from the United Nations’ “Least developed nation” category to “Middle income country” status, Cape Verde can be justifiably proud as it is quite an achievement for a group of islands barely heard of a decade ago.

Cape Verde has a well functioning democracy where constitutionally the president steps down after two terms and in fact former president Pedro Verona Pires, won last year’s $5 million Ibrahim prize for excellence in African leadership. The award, created by Sudanese billionaire Mo Ibrahim, has been given out to three other former African presidents. But there were no winners for the last two years, because the committee could not find a suitable candidate.

Cape Verde is held up as an example to Africa

The head of the Ibrahim Prize Committee, Salim Ahmed Salim, said Pires was chosen for transforming Cape Verde into a model of democracy. He added that it was not just how Pires came to power, but how he left, that made him an exceptional leader.

“President Pires’ democratic credentials were further enhanced when he announced he was stepping down at the end of his second term, dismissing outright that the constitution could be altered to allow him to stand again,” said Salim. “He said, this is a simple matter of faithfulness to the documents that guide a state of law.”

The Ibrahim committee credited him with transforming the country’s economy and improving the lives of its 500,000 citizens. With its strong economic growth and almost universal literacy, Cape Verde is certainly a fine example of what a successful democracy can do for its population.