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Tuesday, February 25, 2020

The Story of Mo Ibrahim, The Man who gifts US$5m to African Leaders to promote quality leadership on the Continent

Mohammed “Mo” Ibrahim, born on 3 May 1946 is a Sudanese-British billionaire businessman. He worked for several telecommunications companies, before founding Celtel, which when sold had over 24 million mobile phone subscribers in 14 African countries.

After selling Celtel in 2005 for $3.4 billion, he set up the Mo Ibrahim Foundation to encourage better governance in Africa, as well as creating the Mo Ibrahim Index, to evaluate nations’ performance. He is also a member of the Africa regional advisory board of London Business School.

In 2007 he initiated the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, which awards a $5 million initial payment, and a $200,000 annual payment for life to African heads of state who deliver security, health, education and economic development to their constituents and democratically transfer power to their successors. Ibrahim has pledged to give at least half of his wealth to charity by joining The Giving Pledge.

According to the Forbes 2011 Billionaire List, Mo Ibrahim is worth $1.8 billion, making him the 692nd richest person in the world. Mo Ibrahim was also selected for the TIME “Top 100” list in 2008.

 

Early life and education

He was born on 3 May 1946 in northern Sudan, of Nubian descent, the second of five children, four of whom were boys. His family moved to Alexandria, Egypt when he was young, and father Fathi was employed there by a cotton company, and his mother Aida was very keen that they all get a good education.

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Ibrahim earned a bachelor’s degree from Alexandria University in electrical engineering. He returned to Sudan and started working for the telephone company, Sudan Telecom. He moved to England and earned a master’s degree from the University of Bradford in Electronics and Electrical Engineering, and a PhD from the University of Birmingham in Mobile Communications.

In 2007 Ibrahim was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, and in 2011 an honorary doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania.

Ibrahim is credited with “transforming a continent” and is said to be the “most powerful black man in Britain”.

Ibrahim was employed by British Telecom for a time, and later worked as the technical director for Cellnet, a subsidiary of British Telecom.

During the early 1980s Ibrahim taught undergraduate telecommunication courses at Thames Polytechnic later to become University of Greenwich.

In 1989 he founded MSI, a consultancy and software company, which in 2000 was bought by the Marconi Company. Originally the company was helping the cellular industry designing their networks, before they shifted their focus to mobile phones in the late 1990s. MSI had 800 employees, who owned approximately 30% of the stock at the point of its sale; Ibrahim says he gave employees stock as a form of bonus.

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In 1998, MSI spun off MSI-Cellular Investments, later renamed Celtel, as a mobile phone operator in Africa.

After some years, when Celtel needed long term source of capital, they considered doing an IPO on a reputable stock exchange, for instance the London Stock Exchange. When it became public that they considered a public offering, they received a lot of alternative offers. Many wanted to buy the company, and Ibrahim and his team decided to sell Celtel in 2004 to Kuwait-based Mobile Telecommunication Company (now Zain). 

Since 2010, Ibrahim has lent his support to the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, a UN initiative which aims to spread the full benefits of broadband services to unconnected peoples.

Mo Ibrahim Foundation

In 2006 Ibrahim created the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, founded in London. In 2007, the Foundation inaugurated the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, with the first recipient former president Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique.

The Foundation publishes the Ibrahim Index of African Governance, ranking the performance of all 54 African countries. Until 2009, the Index took into account only the 48 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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The Foundation offers scholarships at University of Birmingham, SOAS, and London Business School. These scholarships are on topics of International Development at University of Birmingham, Governance of Development in Africa at SOAS, and an MBA at London Business School. The scholarships are initiated for African students, both master students and postgraduates.

Marriage and family

In 1973, Ibrahim married Hania Morsi Fadl, an Alexandria University graduate from the year above him, whom he had known since childhood. They are now divorced, and Fadli is a Sudanese-born British radiologist, running the only breast cancer clinic in Sudan.

They have a daughter, Hadeel Ibrahim, who is executive director of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, vice chair of the Africa Centre in New York, and a board member of the Clinton Foundation; and two sons Hosh and Sami Ibrahim.

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Ibrahim resides in Monaco.

 

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