In awarding the prize, the London-based foundation called the cleric “one of Africa’s great voices for justice, freedom, democracy and responsible, responsive government”.
An anti-apartheid leader and Nobel laureate, Tutu is an outspoken critic on issues affecting the continent and beyond.
“Tutu is and has throughout his life been one of Africa’s great voices for justice, freedom, democracy and responsible, responsive government,” the foundation said in a statement. “In everything he stands for, says and does, he displays a consistent determination to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak the uncomfortable truth.”
Tutu, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his campaign against apartheid, responded by thanking his wife, Leah, for her guidance.
“I have been very fortunate throughout my life to be surrounded by people of the highest caliber, beginning with my extraordinary wife,” said the archbishop in a statement.
“It is these generous people who have guided, prodded, assisted, cajoled – and ultimately allowed me to take the credit.”
The statement said the retired archbishop from Capetown was celebrating his and his wife’s birthdays with family and staff. He turns 81 on Sunday, while Mrs. Tutu’s birthday is a week later.
The South African cleric remains outspoken on international affairs, and has been a fierce critic of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, as well as China’s treatment of Tibetans.
In August, he pulled out of a leadership summit in Johannesburg because he refused to share a platform with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Tutu repeated his calls last month that Blair and former U.S. President George W. Bush should be tried at the International Criminal Court in The Hague for lying about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction in order to justify invading the country.
Blair issued a strongly worded defense of his decisions, rejecting the archbishop’s allegations as “completely wrong as every single independent analysis of the evidence has shown”.
Born in 1946, Mo Ibrahim is a British-Sudanese mobile communications entrepreneur and philanthropist who made billions from investing in Africa.
His foundation’s inaugural prize was awarded in 2007 to Joaquim Chissano, Mozambique’s former president, who has since acted as a mediator in several African disputes.
After announcing the award for Tutu, Ibrahim launched a scathing attack on South Africa’s governing African National Congress.
He told the BBC that the party which led the fight to end white minority rule should “go back to its roots” and needed some “soul-searching.”