Tanzanian executive pushes Africa’s leaders for “a better, more dignified life”

Ali A. Mufuruki believes Africa needs a revolution in leadership. Mufuruki speaks about his home continent from experience as one of Africa’s most seasoned executives. “I hold the view that the problem underlying Africa’s chaos is poor leadership,” he said. “Africa’s elite is failing its people, and we need to do more if our children are to have a better, more dignified life than our own.”

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Ali A. Mufuruki appointed Trade Mark EA Chairman

TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) is proud to announce the appointment of its new Board Members as of 25th August 2015. Members of the board represent leading business and civil society professionals in East Africa. The Board will be chaired by ALI MUFURUKI, who is CEO of Infotech Investment Group Ltd, Dar es salaam, Tanzania; vice Chair TIM LAMONT-Senior Growth, Trade and Investment Adviser DFID Africa regionall and who will act as Donor rep. on development/evaluation; PASCAL LAMY-who served as General Director of the World Trade Organization (WTO) for two consecutive terms; ROSETTE CHANTAL RUGAMBA -Managing Director, Songa Africa Ltd, Rwanda; PATRICK OBATH-Managing Consultant at Eduardo and Associates, Kenya;PATRICIA ITHAU of Patricia Ithau Ltd, Kenya; ANTHONY MASOZERA-CEO of Econet Wireless, Burundi and DUNCAN ONYANGO-the East Africa Regional Director of Acumen Fund, New York;EARL GAST, an independent consultant and SCOTT CAMERON-Chief, Office of Regional Economic Integration, USAID | Kenya and East Africa.

We warmly congratulate our highly qualified Board members on their appointment and we look forward to working with them closely!

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How to Spread It: Ali A Mufuruki

Via www.southernafricatrust.org

Tanzanian businessman and philanthropist Ali A Mufuruki is a Henry Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute’s class of 2001 and founder and chairman of the Africa Leadership Initiative East Africa Foundation.

This foundation aims to take African leaders – 180 in all – from success to significance across the region before 2015.

A trained engineer, Mufuruki is chairman and CEO of the Tanzania-based Infotech Investment Group, which he started in 1989.

Mufuruki is also the chairman of Wananchi Group Holdings (Zuku) in Kenya; a founding partner of East Africa Capital Partners (EACP), also based in Kenya; the chairman of the board of Chai Bora of Tanzania; as well as being the founding chairman of the Tanzania CEO Roundtable, a policy-dialogue forum that brings together CEOs of the top 80-plus leading Tanzanian companies. He is a senior partner of Gro-Energy, an advisory-services firm specialising in African energy markets; and he is chairman of the Muhimbili University Of Health and Allied Sciences grants committee. Mufuruki is a founding trustee of the Mandela Institute for Development Studies in Joburg.

Q: You were a Henry Crown Fellow in 2001. How did that experience change the way you viewed your place in the world?
A: The most important lesson I learnt from the fellowship experience is that an individual armed with knowledge, conviction and values can change the world into a better place for all, and that I was that individual.

Q: You have said in an interview that the idea behind the African Leadership Initiative is to share ideas “not for personal growth or to maximise our business opportunities, but on how we can build a better society”. Do you feel that in the seven years since ALI East Africa launched, the fellows are doing that?
A: Absolutely! Just last week, as we watched in horror the terrorist attack in Nairobi, it was gratifying to see fellows across the continent reaching out to one another, offering assistance and working to reassure their countrymen and the world at large that this terrible attack will not succeed to divide the Kenyan nation. Seven years ago, these fellows didn’t know each other, let alone collaborate in a joint undertaking of any nature.

Q: The Africa Leadership Initiative has as its aim to identify 180 fellows from east Africa – 60 each from Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya – by 2015. You must have come across some remarkable people so far. What stories stick with you?
A: There are many and they are expressed in countless different ways. Sometimes it is through personal and professional decisions fellows make or the leadership projects they choose to undertake during and after the fellowship.

A young lady turned down an opportunity to advance a very promising and lucrative career in the corporate world because she felt the governance environment in her organisation was at odds with her own moral compass, a decision she attributed to her changed world-view after joining the Africa Leadership Initiative fellowship. That is one thing I will not forget for a long time.

Q: Do you feel a shift away from the crisis in African leadership that has been hampering the continent for so long?
A: Not at all. The challenge of leadership is still with us and it may be getting worse long before it gets better. The African population is growing at a pace that is outstripping the capacity of most nations to meet the basic needs of their people, such as education, healthcare, water and essential infrastructure such as roads and electricity.

With 75% of its citizens younger than 35 and without good education or job prospects, Africa faces a serious risk of social turmoil and even violent conflict that could roll back the social and economic gains of the last 20 years if its leaders continue with business as usual. Under the circumstances, the need for enlightened, effective and ethical leadership in and for Africa cannot be overemphasised. We at the Africa Leadership Initiative East Africa are only trying to play our part.

Q: The Africa Leadership Initiative East Africa aims to move the leaders of Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya from ‘success to significance’. Can you pinpoint the moment in your own journey when you felt this had happened for you?
A: This happens gradually and takes place in the mind more than anything else. Throughout the fellowship, leaders are reminded about the fact that acquiring material wealth, power and a high social standing does not amount to much in the life of a human being if it does not translate into a commitment to live a more purposeful life whose hallmarks are effective and enlightened leadership, giving back to the community that created the environment for such success, social status and power, and leaving behind a worthy personal legacy.

For me, this change occurred three years after I graduated as a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute. I suddenly realised I was the one I thought I had been waiting for all my life, that positive change on the continent will be brought about by individuals like me, each doing what they are best at to contribute to the greater good of the people of Africa.

Q: You welcomed US President Barack Obama’s visit to Tanzania earlier this year and held him up as an inspiration to Africans. Do you feel that, increasingly, our continent is making its own heroes?
A: Yes, indeed. Africa is making its own heroes but they are too few for a continent of 1 billion people. We have amazing political leaders such as the late Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who have transformed the fortunes of their countries in a relatively short time. Africa recently produced its own crop of billionaire entrepreneurs. We have some of the best athletes, artists and performers in the world and, of course, Africa produced the legendary Nelson Mandela.

This is a big achievement given where we have come from, but it is woefully insignificant on a global scale. We still carry the unfortunate tag of being the poorest and most backward people in the world. Heroes or not, we must work harder, produce more heroes and enable Africans to claim their rightful place in the global community in our lifetime.

Q: You have said that there is a ‘lack of thinking outside of one’s own community’ in Africa. Do you think this is a function of circumstance?
A: Yes it is, but it is equally important to recognise that circumstance is itself a consequence of something else. The wholesale breakdown of African societies that came as a result of colonialism and the introduction of foreign religions has made it very difficult for Africans, even the most educated ones, to imagine an Africa that is bigger than their village, tribe or district.

Africans suffer from a trust deficit with one another, which seriously reduces their ability to undertake joint projects for a common good because for many there is no such thing as a common good beyond the tiny circle of family or tribe. We must change this.

Q: How can we better foster a culture of giving that ripples outwards?
A: This is the proverbial six-million-dollar question that every philanthropist in the world is wrestling with. There is no formula for doing this in my view, but I have faith in the ability and willingness of a few beneficiaries of philanthropy to pay forward the favour and keep the chain from breaking.

Q: You have already achieved so much, but everyone has a bucket list. What is the next to-do item on yours?
A: To write a book or two about my life experiences. I hope that does not make for a shallow or empty bucket.

» This series is developed by City Press in partnership with the Southern Africa Trust

Doting father, husband and businessman

By Elizabeth Tungaraza,The citizen

When I was assigned to interview Ali Mufuruki, the Executive Chairman of InfoTech Investment Group Ltd, some of my colleagues scared the hell out of me.

They cautioned me to prepare myself well before approaching him. He is a very tough man, they said. Apart from being rich, he wears many hats which makes him one of the famous and influential people in the country. He is a CEO here, a board chairman of some company there, …you name it.

Being the busy man that he is, it was not easy getting an appointment for interview. After some time of waiting, I finally got the rare opportunity to have a word with him.

As my photographer and I waited in the beautiful garden, we could not stop admiring the beautiful one-storey house and its surroundings. The beautiful flowers, a well kept lawn and beautiful trees made us forget we were in Dar es Salaam for a while. We enjoyed the sound of birds and the view of the fresh water in the swimming pool.

Dressed in blue jeans, a white stripped black golf shirt and black sandals, our host joined us in the garden after few minutes. He warmly welcomed and greeted us before taking his seat. In just a few minutes, I realised Ali was a totally different person. He is down-to-earth, very attentive and funny.

He shares his life story with Sound Living.

What is your typical day like?

That’s a very interesting question. I work anywhere and anytime, but I wake up at 5 am, read and answer mails before I start working. I break at 2 pm and if I am in Dar es Salaam, I always go to play golf at Lugalo. The truth is that I travel a lot. I work out too. Before I used to play squash but stopped after developing a back problem.

What are the principles that guide your life, job and marriage?

Working hard tops the list. I always work hard and make sure I am happy all the time. I believe in respect and discipline at work as well as being a man of integrity. People have to be very sincere and faithful. These are among the things that help people succeed.

Is there any specific formula that you use to raise your children?

Children always depend on us (parents) for their education. My mother was the one who went to school up to Standard Four, my father didn’t. My parents therefore could not advise me on my education when I was schooling. I found myself studying engineering because I was directed into taking science subjects due to my performance in the sciences. I personally had a passion in filmmaking, which is why I ended up working in the engineering field for a short time before I switched to business. I thank God I am in a position where I can advise my children in academics though at the end of the day, I let them choose their preferred career paths with the help of career advisors at school, who do so basing on their performance.

Do you set any standards for your children?

If they fail I become very disappointed and if they pass we celebrate their success together. I studied in a difficult environment and became the best student, so sometimes I wonder why these children fail because they have everything; I just don’t understand. I do not accept poor performance. They will tell you daddy is always pushing us so hard but they have to work hard.

At what age did you get your major breakthrough?

Looking back, I think there has not been a single breakthrough moment that stands out. Success in life is an incremental process that you live through every single day with some days being tougher than others.

How much have you invested in your business?

My entire life has been invested in my business. It cannot be counted in financial terms.

When you were first starting out, what were the two biggest mistakes that you made?

I do not dwell on my mistakes. Instead, I learn from them and move on and deliberately erase them from my memory. I believe a life without regrets is a life well lived.

Did you grow up knowing you would be wealthy?


How do you manage your finances?

I am not good at managing my finances. I have lost a lot of money in bad investments.

Has money changed your life? If so how?

I hope not.

Tell us about any sacrifices you have made to get where you are?

Business consumes a lot of personal time and this means loved ones and especially family end up paying the price that comes with frequent absences from home due to travel.

You multi-task a lot. Are there some positions you would wish to let go?

A mono-tasking life would be most boring for anyone. Multi-tasking engages the mind, creates productive tension and delivers results if well managed. However, one must always know their limits lest it turns into stress which can be destructive.

Do you hope to take a break from life in the fast lane?

Most people make a choice between living and working, I try not to. I believe in the importance of living every day as fully as I can. I love having fun and being playful, I think a balanced life is necessary although it is not easy to attain.

Have you ever considered writing an Autobiography?

Actually I’m busy writing it. I started writing it in 1999 and I am still working on it. I want it to include all of my speeches, which I made at various occasions.

Are there any more lessons for you to learn?

Life is about learning without end. I am a constant student of ideas. I love learning. I have a number of unaccomplished dreams. I hope to write a book or two before I sign off from this life.

Do you see yourself being the next richest man in Tanzania?

That status does not interest me at all and I do not spend time worrying about it. I want to be healthy and happy. I want to be able to take care of my family and those who depend on me. That is my ultimate ambition.

What is your favourite food?

I like beef but I like beef barbecue the most.

Is there anything you would like to change about yourself if given a chance?

In life, I never look back and regret. I take my life the way it is. I embrace life; I see it in bright colours and above all, I am not a person who always complains about life.

Email: etungaraza@tz.nationmedia.com