For a second consecutive year, no leader has been deemed worthy of the $5 million Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership.
The foundation's prize committee announced Monday that it had decided not to award the prize -- the fourth time there has been no winner in its seven-year history.
Winners must be democratically-elected leaders who have stepped down in the past three years after serving their constitutionally mandated term, and have demonstrated "excellence in office." The committee's failure to again find a prize winner has led some to comment that its selection criteria are too narrow, and should be broadened to include those showing leadership in civil society.
But Ibrahim, a Sudanese-born telecommunications businessman and billionaire, who created the foundation in 2006, defended the prize.
"Most African countries are new states -- some of the states did not exist 70 years, 50 years ago," he said, adding, "In established democracies there are some kinds of checks and balances, but at the early stages in a state's formation the power of the president is huge ... And we need really to point the finger at where the responsibility lies.
"Let's put the light there and let us seek heroes."
The previous winners were President Pedro Verona Pires of Cape Verde in 2011, Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique in 2007 and Festus Mogae of Botswana in 2008. Nelson Mandela was made the honorary inaugural Laureate in 2007.
In 2009 and 2010 there was no winner, but in 2012 the foundation awarded Archbishop Desmond Tutu a one-off $1 million special prize for his lifelong commitment towards "speaking truth to power."
There have also been accusations that failing to find a prize winner can encourage negative stereotypes about Africa and its leaders.
Hadeel Ibrahim, Mo's daughter and founding executive director of the foundation, told CNN: "We're holding a mirror up to Africa and if there's a winner, congratulations to the winner and to that country, and if there's no winner we hope that African people get more of the leadership they deserve."
She added: "I think that when there's no winner it means that there was no excellent individual. Some people have no expectations of a winner so it doesn't cast Africa in a negative light, because it's what they expect of the continent. For other people the fact that we've even had three winners has opened their eyes to the fact that leadership is much better than it was."
The foundation also released its Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) -- an annual study that uses 94 indicators to measure good governance in Africa.
In the 2013 index Mauritius scored highest for governance, followed by Botswana and Cape Verde, while Somalia scored worst, followed by DR Congo and Eritrea. Liberia was judged to have improved most, while Madagascar deteriorated most.
The report found that 46 African countries have seen improved governance since 2000, with those countries accounting for 94% of Africa's population.
But the report also found that safety and the rule of law have deteriorated overall, with only 20 countries showing an improvement in this category since 2000, partly because of increased internal unrest and internal conflicts in the continent.
Some felt the leadership prize, and its lack of a winner, detracted from impact of the governance report.
At the report launch Mo Ibrahim referred to the African Union's summit last weekend, where the AU agreed to a resolution stating no sitting African head of state should appear before the International Criminal Court, amid accusations that the ICC was unfairly targeting Africa.
"We need an honest and good dialogue between the ICC and the African Union," he said. "We cannot have a justice system that is in conflict with the continent, because it loses credibility."