Salim Ahmed Salim, who chaired the prize committee for the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, said the committee considered every African head of state or government who retired in the last three years. Committee member Aicha Bah Diallo said the group looked "for excellence in governance but in leadership also."
The cash prize has been awarded three times in its seven-year history. Former Cape Verde President Pedro Verona Pires won in 2011, Festus Mogae of Botswana won in 2008, and Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique won in 2007. No award was given in 2009, 2010 and 2012.