Success Story from Sudan: Dr. Mo Ibrahim Supports Good Governance and Emerging Leaders

mo-ibrahim-from FACE

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BONUS POST Celebrating those supporting excellent leaders

Mohamed “Mo” Ibrahim was born in 1946 in Sudan. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Alexandria University in Egypt, a Master’s Degree in Electronics and Electrical Engineering from the University of Bradford in the UK, and a PhD in Mobile Communications from the University of Birmingham in the UK. Dr. Ibrahim worked for British Telecom for a time before becoming the Technical Director for Cellnet (now “O2”), a subsidiary of British Telecom.

In the early 1980s Dr. Ibrahim taught telecommunications at Thames Polytechnic (now the University of Greenwich) just outside of London. In 1989 he founded MSI, a consultancy and software company which had around 800 employees by 2000, when it was purchased by the Marconi Company.

In 1998, Dr. Ibrahim founded MSI Cellular Investments to serve as a mobile phone operator in Africa. In 2004, the company’s name was changed to Celtel International. In 2005, Dr. Ibrahim sold Celtel for $3.4 billion and the company became a subsidiary of Zain (formerly the Mobile Telecommunications Company). At the time Celtel was purchased by Zain the company had approximately 24 million subscribers in 14 African countries.

Dr. Ibrahim used the funds from the sale of Celtel to establish the Mo Ibrahim Foundation in 2006. A year later the charitable foundation began to offer the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. The prize is meant to encourage responsible leadership on the continent by those that were democratically elected, who worked to lift their people out of poverty, and paved the way for sustainable development. The prize also seeks to celebrate those that have served as role models while in office and who intend to continue to serve the public in some form.

The Ibrahim Prize comes with a US $5 million initial payment followed by $200,000 a year for life, exceeding the $1.3 million that comes with the Nobel Peace Prize. The Mo Ibrahim Prize is given annually if deserving recipients are found. The first winner of the Mo Ibrahim Prize was former President of Mozambique Joaquim Chissano in 2007. Former President of Botswana Festus Mogae won in 2008, the former President of Cape Verde Pedro Pires won in 2011, and the former President of Namibia, Hifikepunye Lucas Pohamba, received the prize in 2014.

In addition to supporting the Mo Ibrahim Prize, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation publishes the Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG), which ranks the performance African countries based on over 100 variables in four main areas: 1) safety and rule of law; 2) participation and human rights; 3) sustainable economic opportunity and 4) human development. The IIAG’s data is freely available and transparently published alongside a comprehensive methodology. The IIAG works with Afrobarometer and Global Integrity in supporting data collection, with the aim of complementing existing data sets on Africa and enabling a more accurate assessment of progress in terms of governance on the continent.

In 2007 Dr. Ibrahim was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Economics by the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies and in 2011 he received an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Ibrahim has established a fellowships program that is designed to mentor future African leaders and hosts an annual forum on important issues facing the African continent. He is an entrepreneur, billionaire, and philanthropist. Dr. Ibrahim has pledged to give at least half of his wealth to charity by joining the The Giving Pledge.

In addition to his honorary degrees, Dr. Ibrahim is the recipient of several awards including: the GSM Association’s Chairman’s Award for Lifetime Achievement (2007), BNP Paribas Prize for Philanthropy (2008), Clinton Global Citizen award (2010); Millennium Excellence Award for Actions in Africa (2012), David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award (2012), Africare Leadership Award (2013), and FACE Lifetime Achievement Award (2014).

Based on the literature on international development and personal success, why has Dr. Mo Ibrahim and his foundation been so successful?

Some key characteristics come to mind:

Dr. Ibrahim INVESTED in Africa when he realized that others were not doing so due to their ignorance of the continent. He believed in Africa as a place to do business and was willing to take the risk that he was right. His telecommunications company was established at a time when there were virtually no other providers on the continent.

Dr. Ibrahim ADJUSTED HIS BUSINESS TO MEET LOCAL CONDITIONS. Although people in Africa often could not afford monthly contracts, they very much wanted to have cellular service. Dr. Ibrahim brought supply in line with demand by creating prepaid cards that offered customers cellular service for just a few dollars.

Dr. Ibrahim sets the highest standards and aims for EXCELLENCE in all that he undertakes.

By Heidi G. Frontani


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