Interview With Muzamil Abdelkarim

Muzamil 2

Tell us a bit about yourself?

I am a 3rd generation member of a family that roots back to 7 countries, making me a multi-racial individual that was born & raised in a country with one of the highest racial discrimination rates in the world. Being a millennial, I was told numerous times before that I was commenced into this world along the ends of Sudan’s golden era, a time of prosperity, diversity and joy of simplicity. Then again being part of the youth and future hope for this nation, I always felt the obligation to re-awaken that golden era if not make it platinum for our future generations to flourish in. I love socializing and networking with all interesting people, lifting the less fortunate, challenging life’s complexities and also highly disappointed by the season finale of “Game of Thrones”…

Tell us about your early school days?

Both my parents pursued their higher education overseas, making them liberal and open to our new age thoughts. They always insisted on us getting international schooling in Sudan in-order to get a grasp of both worlds, which eventually led to me joining the Khartoum American School. I was exposed to various global cultures and nationalities there, but the true challenge was maintaining friendships for over two years, since the majority of the student body was constantly shuffling as all their families were temporary diplomats or oil & gas professionals, thus as soon as their employment contracts expired, they relocated to their new destinations and new batches replacing them arrived. So the sort of students and nationalities that you see in my school were directly linked to the nature of political affiliations and humanitarian crises occurring in the country. On the other hand, I built valuable relationships as “Hi5” and all those social media platforms emerged, it made it possible for us to reconnect with each other from all over the world. Multiple times we were evacuated from the school campus due to security protocols and threats, as it was constantly targeted by opposing parties with negative interests whether religious or political. I remember in 9/11 the soccer field was swarmed with SWAT teams, and we went through full body checks in the entrance, as dangerous as that was, we were bored kids and had limited sources of entertainment at the time, so this was quite the amusement. My experience with international schooling certainly opened my eyes to the disturbingly wide cultural and economical gap between the first world and Sudan. I didn’t have much resources to resolve the issue at the time, but I remember gathering my neighbourhood friends and their friends that attended Government schools / universities or even illiterate and taught them some of the coursework I’ve learnt in school. The main challenge was my weak command with the Arabic language, which was utterly shameful, but I still gave it my all and made sure I deliver my message. Witnessing their excitement while learning topics on Ancient History & American Literature was enough of a reward.

How many brothers and sisters did you have, how did this impact and effect you?

Unfortunately I don’t have any sisters, we are three boys and am the eldest. So you can only imagine what a house full of boys screams out – baad news! The hospital and emergency rooms were like the family’s monthly picnic, for one of us was constantly damaged or severely injured due to the usual male aggression as toddlers. My mother was raised among three brothers, so thank god she always knew how to handle the situation well. We certainly had our fair share of fights and arguments, since each one of us attended a different school, it was inevitable to sculpture different personalities and mentalities. I mentioned earlier that I came from a multiracial family, but the living proof is me and my siblings standing beside each other with dissimilar skin color, hair type and even body structure since each one resembled a different relative on the family tree. As different as we were, it taught us a sense of consolidarity, leading to a better understanding of the world around us, that we could look different, act different, speak different but at the end of the day we are family and stand as one. I wish tribes around Sudan had a better understanding of that concept of life.
Where did you go to university and what did you study and why?
In Sudan there is this cultural dysfunctionality as I may call it, which addresses that if you are to be considered successful and of utmost pride to your family & community then you must be an engineer or a doctor. Sadly I was one of those suckers that fell for that trap, so post high school I was admitted to the most prestigious & highest ranking engineering school in the Middle East, where I pursued my education in mechanical engineering. Even though I was excelling with my studies and was privileged to meet by far some of the most distinguished thought leaders and also made beloved friendships, being there was a daily internal struggle for me. I was always attempting to start small ventures or earn money through selling concert tickets last day before the event for extra margins or even getting part-time jobs demanding innovation. Alongside that, the cultural detachment I had with my country immensely troubled me, as I always seeked to utilize my entrepreneurship drive and creativity to make change and impact where I felt it was needed most, Sudan. I knew instantly that it was time to return home and pursue my education in Business Administration and build networks to better understand African markets & the opportunities that lay there. I was worried of how my parents would take it after going through such a hefty investment to see me become the engineer that they would brag about to their friends and family. I still chose to stick to my decision, so I just packed my items and returned for a “vacation”, and secretly applied to business school in Khartoum and then dropped the news to the family. I was expecting a few flying “shabashib” & “Mufrakas” and some matrix manoeuvring tactics, but they actually respected my point of view and interests towards getting more engaged with my culture. University in Sudan was indeed one of my best year & experiences in life as it provided me with the opportunity to polish my Arabic language, get involved with civic society foundations, meet highly diverse Sudanese locals & diaspora, and even had the chance to practice my entrepreneurship drive on the side through initiating a part-time small agribusiness (animal-feed brokerage) & also a freelance real estate business where I used my international background to bridge the gap between newly arriving expats and the local housing markets.

What do you feel is your greatest achievement to date?

Well I can barely call anything I did an achievement, when you have supreme leaders that fought for our generations like Alkhalifa Abdullahi alta’ayshi, Moe Ibrahim that created celtel & the Moe Ibrahim foundation to support anti-corruption or even Dr. John Garang that was leading the South and thriving for tribal peace & sustainability in Sudan. Any achievement beyond that seems mynute, but I could tell you about a project of mine that I was proud of and did light a fire inside of me when I realized how much impact you could do to society with just a simple idea. It was back in my final high-school year where I had to come up with a science fair project. I really wanted my project to be directed towards tackling poverty and giving back to the people. So I came up with a simple idea entailing a refrigerator that was made from clay “zeer” pots, sand and Styrofoam. It was a huge clay pot with a smaller sized clay pot inside of it, with rough sand in between separating them, and a Styrofoam cover on top, when you place water in the sand, it will flow to the surface of the outer pot and the moisture evaporation minimizes the inner temperature to 1 – 4 degrees Celsius, and that low temperature was insulated by the Styrofoam cover on top. A preliminary version of the solution was already there, but I was able to improve the design tremendously into a cooler and more cost efficient model ($1 at the time). The impact of this was that people in poverty regions depend mostly on selling food produce in traditional marketplaces to sustain their household income, but they end up dumping the leftover food daily as the heat and unsanitary environments cause it to perish. This new refrigerator concept opened a new opportunity for them to store produce safely lasting roughly 2 weeks, have healthier food produce since the clay pot has a natural antibacterial agent & also be able to increase their profits through eliminating food waste.

What does being Sudanese mean to you?

Being Sudanese is the definition of utmost hospitality, benevolence, sincerity, mercy, humour and bravery. Sad thing is, in the times we live in today, I am not quite sure if that’s the case anymore, since what seemed to define us one day ceases to exist today. It is heartbreaking indeed that we are losing that Sudanese persona, but I would blame it both on globalization and economic downturns, its causing public frustration & people to worry too much, thus causing them to over think matters that never existed before, matters as simple as whether to go to school or work to earn the pay sustaining a single day for their families. This new persona that our nation is currently adopting is causing our youth to be ashamed and avoid being associated with the name “Sudan”, therefore wiping their national pride.

What do you rate as success and how do you define it?

Success is the rate of lives that you uplift socially and financially as a side effect of the efforts you do on your daily lives. It’s the number of families that their sole existence depends on your existence and fuel your dedication, not your own family as they are an obligation, I am talking about families that you have no obligation towards. Success is the number of people you help in-order to make them eager to wake up every morning knowing they have a purpose in life, and through their productivity large problems are solved that benefit societies at large. It’s simply the number of genuine smiles you help create…

Who would you say is the most influential Sudanese?

Hmm the most influential people you say, by all means I’ll say the new social media celebrities that came to rise in the most recent years the guy from Yakhwana, wad saab, alhaj snoop, simply because they are addressing 70% of Sudan which is represented by our youth, the inevitable successors of this country. I believe that they raised this sort of popularity, not because they speak bluntly of our society but simply because they were the only ones that aligned themselves with the current trends, and transformed our everyday struggles into jokes and simple dialogue that speaks to the people. They understood our merciful culture, pinpointed the societal issues that the majority of the population obliviously goes through daily and made us aware of it with a feel good factor.

Who would you say is the most successful Sudanese?

The title of most successful Sudanese cannot be awarded to one individual, it’s rather a collective of artists, poets and singers that kept this nation’s spirit alive throughout the hard road bumps and still are. Some of them would be the late Al-Sayed Khalifa, Altayeb Saleh, Osman Hussein and 7awa altagtaaga, those are names that ring a bell with each and every Sudanese individual. Aside from the massive amounts of social good they have done, they are the ones that remind us today of what this nation represented in a time in history, and represent time capsules of the happenings that occurred in their lifetime. This keeps that fire burning for hope to reach that throne of greatness & glory that we once had.
What would you like to say to inspire the Sudanese youth of today?

Every day young energetic youth desperately strive to leave Sudan for a better life somewhere else in the world, and this really hurts me as it portrays defeat and loss of hope. Am not sure about the exact statistic but its somewhere over 2,000 young adults migrating from Sudan on the daily. Well here is a news flash for you, all those multinational companies and developed nations need you a whole lot more than you need them right now. Am sure you are all aware that the world is facing major catastrophes ranging from food security issues to resources that are depleting at alarming rates, making it a challenge to sustain a good life for our generations to come. Sudan is a major player in the solution of this global catastrophe as it’s still brand new and ripe with all the arable agricultural lands, mineral treasures and fresh water resources but yet years behind, you could see this as a challenge or you could see it as an opportunity, this defines what type of person you are. I hear a lot of complains and excuses from some people when I advise them to take their entrepreneurial drive in action and create jobs in Sudan, but bear in mind that if it wasn’t a challenge then everyone would’ve done it, we need champions not kittens! It’s simple, you aren’t here to reinvent the wheel, replicate business models that are working somewhere in the world and re-apply them in Sudan, and if you’d ask me we are on the verge of an African internet & tech start-up revolution. If you think of it, Malaysia was but a mere deteriorated version of Sudan two decades ago, it’s the entrepreneurs and leaders like yourself that made it the global business hub it is today, I believe we can do it even better. I wrote a heartfelt article posted on my LinkedIn, called “United States of Africa – A dream or an opportunity”, I hope that would divert your thoughts a little. My secret formula to life is always aim for the highest peaks in the life, If its money – bring in the billions, if it’s charity – save Africa, if it’s religion – pray your head off, if it’s life – live it for two, if it’s a Ferrari – why not a jet? Aim for the best things in life, even if you don’t reach them you will be just a step below, that’s still ok.

What is your favourite quote?

“verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest” (Qur’an 13 : 28) – A wise man once told me, that every human being is created of two parts a body & a soul, and if they are not intact then your body and mind undergo severe misbalance and deterioration. The glue that keeps them intact is your spiritual believe in something. It doesn’t matter if you are Christian, Buddhist, Hindu or Muslim your spiritual philosophy and prayer is what keeps your mind sane in an insane world and helps you through your life journey, especially in times of fear and uncertainty.

Anything Else you want to add?

I beg of you to please highly respect, educate and empower the women in our society. These are your mothers, sisters, daughters and blood relatives that you are downgrading, how could you be unequal to them when you are well aware that they are the ones responsible for our sole existence. I do believe that men are always driven by ego, senseless decisions and at certain times insecurities which led to this global mayhem we witness today. Women’s roles in the Sudanese society must be transformed from being housewife tools into leaders taking part of the development & economical progression of this nation as equals, for you cannot rejuvenate this nation without the collaboration of the other half of the population, and plus they truly understand matters in life that men cannot comprehend. Sometimes I see so called “leaders” and how they treat women, and think to myself I can’t blame them since this is what they grew up witnessing in their homes. I am blessed with powerful and highly educated females in my family that would easily terrify an army, and would not accept to be treated in any way but equal, but it was clear evidence of their power to transform, lead and better the lives of the communities around them. Put that ego aside, and try it out, you really never know maybe I am right after all.

P.s. Enjoy life and spend as much time with your family and loved ones as you can, forgive and forget life is too short to waste…
13 – Please Share your Contact Deatails with People who wish to get in touch:

You are more than welcome to join me on my rapidly growing 4000+ professional network over linkedin to help expand your cross-continental business relations; I also share a lot of interesting business and financial insights. If my network or I could be of any assistance to you in any way possible, please do not hesitate to contact me directly on my email.

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/muzamilkarim

Email: muzamil_karim@hotmail.com

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