The president said he hoped to use the money to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds pursue higher education, according to BBCNews.
Pohamba, 79, was named recipient of the 2014 Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership at a ceremony in Nairobi, Kenya.
Mo Ibrahim is a British-Sudanese mobile communications entrepreneur and philanthropist who made billions investing in Africa. In 2005, he sold his mobile phone company, Celtel, for $3.4 billion, AlJazeera reports.
Intended as an annual prize, it was launched by Ibrahim to encourage African leaders to serve limited, or constitutionally mandated terms and leave power peacefully, BBC reports.
A former rebel who fought for Namibian independence, Pohamba served two terms as president. First elected in 2004, he served again in 2009. Hage Geingob has been elected as the next Namibian president.
Under Pohamba’s leadership, Namibia cemented its reputation as “a well-governed, stable and inclusive democracy with strong media freedom and respect for human rights,” said Salim Ahmed Salim, chairman of the Mo Ibrahim awards committee.
Just three African leaders have been awarded the prize since 2007. The first winner was former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, who has since acted as a mediator in several African disputes, according to BBC.
Pohamba is the first winner of the award since Cape Verde’s former President Pedro De Verona Rodrigues Pires won in 2011, according to AlJazeera.
Other winners include the late former South African President Nelson Mandela, who won an honorary prize; and Botswana’s Festus Mogae, who won in 2008. There were no winners in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013.
AlJazeera asked Ibrahim why so few African leaders had won the prize since its inception in 2007. He replied that his foundation was not willing to lower its standards.
“I think (Pohamba) gave us a wonderful example of a leader who came in democratically and moved his country forward, improved education … and paid attention to social cohesion,” Ibrahim said.
“It is a prize for excellence in leadership. We are not lowering our standards.