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Biography of Ibrahim ABOULEISH

Egypt > Science : Ibrahim ABOULEISH

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Biography :

Dr Ibrahim Abouleish (b. in 1937), is a wealthy Egyptian pharmacologist. He studied chemistry and medicine at the University of Graz, Austria, receiving his Ph.D. in 1969. Thereafter he engaged in pharmaceutical research, and was Head of Division for pharmaceutical research until 1977. In 1975, on a visit to Egypt, he became aware of its pressing problems in education, overpopulation and pollution. In 1977 he decided to establish a comprehensive development initiative, SEKEM which aims to set out a blueprint for the healthy corporation of the 21st century.

 Sekem started with the personal vision of Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish, who was born in Egypt in 1937. After training in Austria in chemistry, medicine and pharmacology, Dr. Abouleish returned to Egypt in 1975, where he was overwhelmed by his country’s lack of education, its overpopulation, and its pollution, particularly from the use of chemical pesticides.

A vision was kindled in his heart, and he returned in 1977 to establish Sekem, which means “vitality from the sun”. Egyptians recognize that the sun is a life-giving force, permeating and enlivening the Earth’s entire being. “I had a vision of a three-fold project that would allow me to contribute to community-building, humanity, and healing the earth. The desert was like the canvas of a painting, but without a frame.”

He founded Sekem on a 70-hectare patch of scrub and desert near Belbeis, 60 km north-east of Cairo, on the eastern edge of the southern Nile Delta. With a group of Europeans and local Egyptian farmers, planted many trees, bringing life to an untouched part of the desert with the aid of natural biodynamic organic fertilizers. As the soil improved, they planted herbs, and started producing and selling herbal medicines. By 1983, they were harvesting their first crops of organic fruits, vegetables and spices. In the years since, Sekem has grown into a rich community of businesses, schools, and non-profit societies that employs some 2,000 people.

Aims and Objectives
Sekem is intended to establish a blueprint for a healthy corporation in the 21st century, and to show that profit-making can go hand-in-hand with social and cultural enrichment. To quote Dr. Abouleish: “We strive at Sekem to build a community in which people of all nations and cultures work and learn together with the aim to acknowledge, nurture and love the super-sensible world and noble ideals.” As well as producing a large variety of organically grown consumer products of high quality, and restore the earth by means of biodynamic agriculture, Sekem seeks to achieve a greater integration of the arts, religion and sciences, with the main aim of developing people.

“It was my wish for this initiative to embody itself as a community in which people from all walks of life, from all nations and cultures, from all vocations and age groups, could work together, learning from one another and helping each other, sounding as one in a symphony of harmony and peace.” (Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish)

One of Sekem’s offshoots, the Egyptian Society for Cultural Development, aims to elevate the total welfare of the Egyptian people by enabling them to determine and realize their own socially unique and culturally appropriate development path.

All the different aspects of the company, whether the cultural ones or the economic ones, have been developed out of Islam. We believe that it is possible to derive guiding principles for everything from pedagogics, to the arts, to economics, from Islam.” (Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish)

 Sekem has grown from one man’s vision, in 1977, to employ 2,000 people. Revenues grew from 37 million Egyptian pounds in 2000 to 100 million in 2003. In 2003, Sekem earned $81 million E£, and realized a 25% increase in profits. 55% of its sales are domestic, within Egypt.

In 2003, Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in Stockholm, “for a business model for the 21st century in which commercial success is integrate with and promotes the social and cultural development of society through the ‘economics of love’”. In 2004, the World Economic Forum selected Sekem’s founders as outstanding social entrepreneurs, establishing the blueprint for the healthy corporation of the 21st century.

In 2006 he was appointed as a councillor at the World Future Council.


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Last update : 03/31/2009

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