BusinessDay

Ibada Ahmed – Pioneering the Pan African Dream

As a Kenyan citizen of Somali decent, it is without a doubt that the entrepreneurial flair attributed to individuals of Somali heritage runs intrinsically in Ibada Ahmed’s veins. Ibada’s journey and career evolution are best described by the words of Congolese revolutionary Patrice Lumumba, “Africa will write its own history and in both north and south it will be a history of glory and dignity.” Indeed, Ibada is intentionally doing her part to use her passion for poverty eradication to pen a new story for thousands who are being empowered both directly and indirectly by her work in its myriad of capacities.

Ibada’s rise began as a banker and she soared to become Kenya’s youngest senior bank manager at the age of 23. She has since spread her wings beyond Kenya’s banking sector and evolved into a Venture Capitalist, Investor and an SDG champion across African boarders and Globally. She sits on the Regional Board of Global Citizen, an international advocacy organisation that has to date raised more than 48 Billion dollars dedicated to ending extreme poverty by 2030. She is also founding member and Vice President of Africa’s Young Entrepreneurs (A.Y.E), Ibada has impacted over 12 million young entrepreneurs across 21 countries. Not only is she in the business of empowering young business people, but she has ascended to serve as Director on boards that include leading Africa focussed investment banking firm Iron Capital, and Liechtenstein Institute For Strategic Development, based out of Liechtenstein as their international advisor for Africa.

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It has become like protocol to question women who secure seats for themselves in the corridors of power about whether their insecurities ever culminated to imposter syndrome, and Ibada speaks boldly about this when reflecting on her journey and that of other successful individuals.

“I am not particularly a fan of this term. I often find that’s it’s selectively and primarily used on high achieving individuals and propagated by a few who suffer from classic malcontent syndrome. No one ever uses this term to describe the struggle phase.

History is littered with women and men who had to self-doubt or start over because someone told them they were not good enough or equal enough to their counterparts.
Even during my insensible, self-inflicted, doubtful moments, I have always remained fair to myself; whilst challenging this narrative.

Women like me have always created opportunities for ourselves and others, so we never have to indulge in respectability politics, which we all know has never and will never be about fair optics. I may have had doubts once or twice like most people but never felt like a fraud.”

This outlook on life speaks volumes to the mindset that has kept her at the zenith of the various ventures she has pursued, no matter the industry or organisation.

“From the moment I knew who I wanted to be, I knew I had to develop resounding mantras to always remind me of the things I was made from. I had to narrow the parameters for myself. It was important to.

No one cares about your story until you WIN, so WIN and get it DONE, get it RIGHT! Simple words we may have often heard, but for me they have been my cornerstone and a perfect daily reminder of what must be done. As adults we are all very capable of decidiur own proprietary. I choose to approach all my affairs with resounding integrity. I have always known I would be respected if I couldn’t be loved by all.”

The concept of self-determination resonates with Ibada beyond an individual level, it rings through both her perspective of her origins and vision for the future of Africa. “I have always considered myself a Nomad, either as one that continues to criss-cross this continent in search of business opportunities or one whose people have and continue to herd livestock across borders for greener pastures. We must acknowledge that we are all products of the Berlin conference whose deliberate division of this continent sent neighbours and families away from each other in what was termed ‘borders’.

In truth, my Somali family in North Eastern Kenya maintain strong ties with my Somali family in Somalia. Neither are the Wolof people of Gambia and the Wolof people of Senegal estranged, nor are the Ndebele’s of Zimbabwe and the Ndebele’s of South Africa unacquainted and that includes the Fulani people spread across seven west African nations, to name afew. After all Society is an enlargement of an individual. Borders are an illusion that do not conform to our realities. We need to rethink these thought up borders that hinder our identify, cultural fluidity and economic prosperity.”

It is clear that Ibada is bold and firmly in control of her trajectory. Not only has she positioned herself for a legacy of career excellence, but she has made herself available to undo the Africa defined by poverty and struggle by aligning the building blocks for an authentic Pan African dream.

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