Ali was an exemplary individual, corporate leader, friend and champion. He was intelligent, caring and had a focus to serve rightly.
He was also impatient and not always polite, and for me he was one of the bravest leaders I have ever met.
As a Tanzanian, I have known Ali for many years. However, in the last three and a half years he moved from being a man I looked up to, admired and felt from a distance to him being a friend, a mentor and coach who also inspired, and maybe “conned” me into taking over from him as chairman of the CEO Roundtable of Tanzania (CEOrt).
I remember Ali giving me a call one day, and telling me that he thought I was ready to take up a bigger leadership role, in addition to running a bank, and upon my push back we agreed to meet to discuss more. A couple of weeks later at his office, I asked Ali, “How will this work out? How am I expected to fill your shoes with my limited exposure and different style?”
To my many questions he responded, “Sanjay, the association requires change. I have hanged on a bit too long, and you don’t need to fill my shoes, but make your own shoes. After all, other board members, your friends and I are confident that you can take charge, and I will be available to support you whenever required.”
And who could say ‘No’ to Ali?
Ali was very considerate and concerned about family, friends, his team, the nation and about Africa. Sometimes I felt he wanted to worry about many things, but himself. In every interaction I had with him, I always took away some lessons. He was a great at story telling, sharing experiences and driving the big picture thinking. He was intense but jovial, humble and purposeful.
I last spent quality time with Ali at the launch of Retired President Mkapa’s memoir My Life, My Purpose: A Tanzanian President Remembers. We both got a personal signed copy of the book with his reading: “With appreciation of your sturdy promotion of the Private Sector” - Benjamin W. Mkapa.
He surely was the champion and the voice of private sector in driving greater economic prosperity. He also actively took part in many quality forums to improve leadership and governance impact in Tanzania and Africa.
At the event, we discussed when he was completing his personal memoir and he told me that it was in the works. We also agreed on a possible coverage on my sentiments on him in it. This unfortunately did not happen with his passing away.
Known to be a digitally social native leader, with his influence and candid remarks on social networks especially Twitter, he was also a man who cared about friends and their families.
On his last visit to Canada, he really touched my family and I as he invited my son Ronil, who’s studying there, to have a meal with him and his family.
With the flow of messages I have received for Ali after his passing away, I am even more touched on how precious a soul he was.
The private sector was blessed to have him; young and upcoming leaders and entrepreneurs were blessed to have him; Tanzania was blessed to have him; Africa was blessed to have him.
We need to celebrate his life of leadership, impact and purpose.
Ali, you will be sorely missed by CEOrt and all its members. May you rest In peace, dear friend.
Sanjay Rughani is chairman of the CEO Roundtable of Tanzania.