Breaking down barriers to business

Mark Bouris interviews Young Australian of the year, Abdullahi Alim, about leadership, entrepreneurship and breaking down barriers to business for the BIPOC community.

“It gives me goosebumps to think that there’s a young man in his 20s who is actually putting out there, actually showing the type of maturity I expect from our senior politicians, and sadly, we don’t always get.”

As a society we’ve lost the art of conversation, we struggle to talk through issues without yelling at each other anymore. This is what One Love Australia wants to change. They want to enable productive conversations where everyone listens, and everyone learns, especially for conversations about racism. So, they reached out to Mark Bouris recently to ask him to sit down and interview Abdullahi Alim for One Love Australia’s #ShareThePlatform campaign.

Presenting curated interviews between Australia’s most successful and influential start-up entrepreneurs and some of Australia’s emerging and established BIPOC founders, the #ShareThePlatform campaign intends to start conversations to build bridges and build understanding.

Addressing this isn’t simply a social cause. If we don’t facilitate an environment in business where everyone can bring their unique talents to the fore, how can we hope to create amazing new Australian businesses?

“You can effect change. The more involved we become, the more we recognise our talents we step up in our own lives, the more the country steps up.”

Abdullahi Alim is one young Australian with some very unique talents. Based in Geneva, he leads the World Economic Forum’s network of young emerging leaders, known as the Global Shapers across Africa and the Middle East. Passionate about youth empowerment, focused on diversity and community resilience, and aware of the monumental changes that technology will present to youth and minorities, Abdullahi knows how to work with young minds, and help them to achieve great things.

Key Lessons

1 Give yourself permission to dream

“The difference between being bogged down and being able to do something about it, is first giving yourself the luxury to dream.”

Mark: how do you go about dreaming when you’re in an underprivileged position?

Abdullahi: “I think specifically for indigenous Australian’s, especially those in the rural pockets of this country…you come from a legacy of survival, of innovation, you come from the longest standing tradition in the world…it tells you that you come from a track record of being able to innovate, of being able to survive and withstand some of the worst kinds of oppression. So for me, acknowledge the power in your survival.”

“I’m disheartened to say, but when we look at the new economy, in 2017, we had 11 Indigenous Australians graduating with a computer science degree. That is abysmal. As much as we talk about the new economy being the direction of the future…if we continue to perpetuate the same old structures, the very forms of exclusions in today’s economies…that  to me is abysmal.  At that rate, we’re not going to tackle the disadvantage that we see.”

For Abdullahi, for those watching, those who don’t identify as indigenous Australian’s and those working in the start up ecosystem, we need to commit to being the ally of our BIPOC communities, to make sure that 11 is not a number that continues.

2 Government has the mandate to act and effect change. Government has to step up and ensure that we’re working towards a more equitable future, not a less equitable one.

Mark: If you were in government Abdullahi, what would you do, what would you change? Do you take the systems behind start-ups out to the regions?

Abdullahi: “It has to be a bit of both, more of a forward and back.”

“We need to intentionally put a lot more infrastructure into the rural parts of this country so that you can create some level of equilibrium. We cannot call this innovative sector, if it only privileges a certain amount of people. There’s nothing innovative about reinforcing historical exclusion.”

3 The next generation of young leaders are a lot more representative of the world than the current power.

The next generation are a lot more aware of the trends and issues that are facing the world. 

Today’s young people, are one of the first generations of millennials to live through two global recessions, two global economic downturns during their formative years. So that means it’s that much harder to get your first job, that much harder to negotiate for that wage increase, that much harder for you to even develop the mental wellbeing that comes from having a structure during your formative years.”

However, Abdullahi firmly believes that the great challenges for our younger generations presents opportunities: “2008, the financial crisis. What came from that? Occupy Wall Street, the Arab spring we had a lot of youth lead movements, run by young people who were highly disenfranchised. Today’s youth movements…these teenage change makers are literally the children of the 2008 financial crisis. So I’m more worried that we’re going into an economic downturn, much worse than in 2008, I’m worried about the inequities it’s going to create, and how it forces young people to take on this social justice agenda which should be the mandate of the government to create these equitable spaces, but I have more and more hope that people are waking up.”

4 Embolden our younger generations of colour

Mark: What’s the one thing you would like to leave us with, Abdullahi?

Abdullahi: “I think Share The Platform, for black Australians – whether that be Indigenous Australians, migrant communities as well as people of colour – my thing to you is that nobody is going to give you your rights. Nobody gave me mine.”

“So you need to muster up, even if it’s one of those fake it until you make it situations, you need to muster up as much confidence and self belief, because you will have to weather through a lot more than the average person to get to where you want.”

“What it is also means is you will get to places knowing that you are almost over-prepared and you able to reap the benefits of that. There are so many examples of young people that I work with as well, who have amazing opportunities that come to them, but they weren’t simply prepared.”

“So constantly think, constantly believe in yourself that you’re able to manifest the best version of yourself. It’s a daily exercise. It’s a daily grind. Do not be ignorant to the challenges that you  face, acknowledge them. Because not acknowledging them I think can lead to mental health issues down the line as well.”

“But take stride in the fact that you can definitely do it. You doing it creates generational ripples as well. I’m really excited because we are the next generation of Australia, so the more emboldened we become, the more we recognise our talents, the more we step up into our own lives, I think the more this country steps up too, and everyone benefits.”

You can see all of the #sharetheplatform campaign videos here.