File photo: Former Madagascar leader Marc Ravalomanana. File picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

Johannesburg - Madagascar’s former president, Marc Ravalomanana, has been nominated as African Person of the Year 2017 for Political Leadership.

Ravalomanana, who spent more than five years in exile in South Africa after being deposed in an illegal 2009 coup d’état, was honoured by African Leadership Magazine at an awards banquet in Sandton in Johannesburg on Saturday night.

One of seven African Persons of the Year, Ravalomanana’s award recognised “an African, who has immensely contributed to deepening democracy and democratic values on the continent”. 

More than 288 000 people voted to elect the seven Persons of the Year. The awards, which are in their 6th year, see a shortlist of nominees gathered via a call for nominations promoted across Africa, Europe, and the Americas. They are then voted on by readers of the magazine.

Publisher, Ken Giami, said: “To be chosen out of over 1.2 billion people on the continent, speaks volumes.  Nominees have elevated and redefined benchmarks of service to humanity. They are true lovers of Africa, contributing passionately … impacting society, making Africa a better place for its people.” 

Ravalomanana was chosen ahead of prominent peers: EFF leader Julius Malema; Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta; and former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who was the first woman head of state in Africa.

The former president said he was flattered by the award, but “conflicted because my work is far from over” before adding that sadly the political crisis in his beloved country was not yet over.

“We have not managed to lift our people out of the spiral of poverty and the lack of development they suffer,” said Ravalomanana.

“I want this award to be the start of achievement -- not the end of it. I accept it as a commitment to the people of Madagascar that I will work with them to change our history.”

Ravalomanana said that like many African countries, Madagascar had plunged into destructive politics, after suffering a violent, illegal coup which had exacerbated poverty and despair.

“Our people suffered while those with vested interests profited from their misery. Reconciliation, democracy and development have to transform Madagascar into the prosperous, peaceful country it so deserves to be.

“Without reconciliation, we will never forge democratic compromise. Without democracy, we will never have development – and without development, people lose faith in democracy,” he added.

The seven other African Persons of the Year awards went to Rwandan President Paul Kagame who was nominated African of the Year 2017.

The African Female Leader of the Year 2017 award went jointly to Bethlehem Tilahum Alemu, the founder of soleRebels in Ethiopia, and Susan Mashibe, the Executive Director of Tanjet Aviation in Tanzania.

Zimbabwe’s Strive Masayiwa, the founder of Econet, scooped ALM Person of the Year 2017 for Educational Development while ALM Person of the Year 2017 for Employment Generation went to Kwame Nana Bediako, the president and founder of Petronia in Ghana.

Kenyan Manu Chandaria, the Chairman of the Comcraft Group in his country, was awarded the ALM Person of the Year 2017 for Philanthropy & Charitable Contributions to Society.

And Young Person of the Year 2017 went to another Kenyan, Joel Macharia, the founder and CEO of Abacus in the East African country.

African News Agency/ANA