DR MOHAMED (MO) IBRAHIM
Founder & Chairman, Mo Ibrahim Foundation
Founder, Mobile Systems International
Founder, Satya Capital Limited
Unit: Build & Sustain an Innovative Work Environment
Topic: Promote Innovation
Dr Mohamed Ibrahim, often known as Mo Ibrahim, is a philanthropist and entrepreneur who has invested and earned billions of dollars through mobile communications technology. Ibrahim became involved in the study and development of early mobile telecommunication networks in the late 1960s after a conversation with a Swiss taxi driver made him realise the massive amount of potential of the technology. Ibrahim, watching on as the taxi’s driver communicated through the public radio system, became curious about the extents to which mobile communication could reach. He soon began his academic career, studying and teaching in various telecommunications courses before being hired by British Telecom to help develop the company’s in-car telephone business.
Ibrahim spent six years as a technical director at British Telecom helping to establish Britain’s first mobile network before moving back to North Africa and the region in which he spent his childhood. In 1998, Ibrahim launched Mobile Systems International in Sudan. Although the business began when Ibrahim had just $50,000 to his name, it rapidly expanded over the following decade to include 800 employees and 17 international subsidiaries by the year 2000. At that point, Ibrahim sold the company for $900m.
Ibrahim continued to work in the telecommunications field, founding Celtel in 1998 to build and operate mobile networks across Africa. The company’s users increased tenfold over the five years until it was sold for $3.5b in 2005. Since then, Ibrahim has dedicated himself to running the Mo Ibrahim Foundation and various charitable causes. The Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which he established in 2006, aims to recognise African leadership and stimulate debate on good-governance across Sub-Saharan Africa and the world.