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Digital transformation in Sudan podcast

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What are the opportunities for digital transformation in Sudan? In the third episode of Jabanah with Sudan Digital we had a very special guest. One of the leading CEO’s in Africa and probably the most beloved CEO in all of Sudan, the GREAT and WONDERFUL Malik Melamu, CEO of MTN Sudan.

(side note, this time we had our Jabanah with those amazing, creamy, rich, warm and sweet cinnamon rolls from Choco Loco; one of the talented local independent entrepreneurs in Sudan). If you are interested in buying some of them or any other of their baked goods check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Choco-loco-1..

Malik and Aziz went over a range of topics from digital transformation to business ethics and what lays ahead of leaders here in our beloved country Sudan.

Digital transformation in Sudan

Malik is a Pan-African business leader with an impressive personal and professional calliper. He has been to 8 countries and Sudan has been his 9th stop for the last 5 years. In his words “Sudan has found a space in my heart and what Sudan has to offer culturally and historically is very understated  […..] we all know that Sudan is going through tough times and it is a tough place to do business but on one side  it is very rewarding”

Malik is one of the first leaders in the country to set a digital partner which testifies to his trailblazing vision. He believes that the young generation of Sudan have so much to give and digital opportunities are the way to close the gap between Sudan and developed countries.

Business ethics

As the conversation shifted towards business ethics Malik talked about a very interesting story when he was the SEO of MTN in Benin in West Africa. He tells how he challenged the views of local CEOs who believed that corruption is part of the county’s culture by citing how local coastal villages demonstrate cooperation, togetherness and sharing in all of their day to day activities.

As an ethical practitioner, Malik challenges the academic view that people are inherently corrupt. An organization sets a certain code of ethics and ensures that employees check all the boxes. But these codes have loopholes and when someone takes advantage of them they can walk scot-free. Malik sees such corrupt behaviours as not inherent in individuals but rather created and motivated by these systems. He says “Ethics is about values that you bring from home, from your religion, from your schools and from your community”

One of the challenges that face small and large businesses alike is how to transfer our core values of generosity and warm hospitality into business contexts. Generally speaking, business ethics originated in western values, and young generations in Sudan tend to struggle when they enter the workforce as these two ethical systems (personal vs. business) clash against one another. Malik gave an illustrative example of customer service. As a nation, we are known for our warm hospitality and generosity. Yet, within corporate spaces, we tend to forget that these are the core values of any successful customer service. 

Eloquently put by Aziz: “Sudan is a third world country but with first-world people”. There is something unique and special about how we Sudanese people interact and take care of one another. So whenever you go into the business world, don’t forget your authentic Sudanese values, rather bring them with you. As Malik puts it: “Ethics is not this elaborate system of rules and laws. They are the values that you bring with you from home”.

Leadership

The conversation switched gears to leadership. As Malik sees it, leadership is situational, but its core is fairness and honesty. A leader is someone who creates an environment, provides support, motivation, direction for his team to develop and excel. And when that is done the leader’s job is done. As Malik puts it “My job as a leader is to work myself out of a job”.  

The first time Malik was appointed to be a manager was when he was 24 years old. He has been in management for 30 years and nothing gave him pleasure like growing leaders. He sees great potential in the youngs of Sudan. During his first two years in Sudan Malik gave sessions on management and leadership. He talked about his work experiences, his successes, failures and lessons learned. He taught people how to grow from being book smart to application smart.  

A leader’s job is to make sure that everyone in the team is facing the same objectives. A leader is someone who believes in his team, respects them, values them and switches them on.

As the podcast approached its end, Malik left us with a valuable piece of advice to people aiming to start their own business in Sudan and young entrepreneurs in general. Make sure you understand your purpose, money never comes first, or second, it comes as a consequence of your hard work, commitment and diligence. Know your objectives and direct them towards adding value to the lives of people. And that is a surefire recipe for success.

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