Interviews

Iqbal Latif owner of Rafayel Hotel …on education, reading, Wikileaks and unity.

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In a past issue, we published various topics discussed with social scientist, Iqbar Latif, ranging from the importance of education, Africa’s problems, key to success, knowledge and empowerment. Iqbar Latif is the proprietor of London-based (Battersea) luxury 5-star eco hotel, Rafayel. 

In this second installment, Mr Latif talks about a series of issues from Wikileaks to being a humanitarian.

Benefits of education in Africa 
Genocide is due to lack of adequate education and mismanagement of human resources.  This is reflected in the genocides of Burundi, Angola, Somalia and Afghanistan.  
The western world has failed in helping develop third world countries.  We should expose our soft values in an experiment to help these countries instead of giving aid.
The best arms and ammunition for a nation to become strong is education given to children.  Logic, toleration and reason equates to mental strength.  
A highly admired African country will be one that invests in its children, with a high enrollment of students in schools and compulsion education for all children in primary education especially girls, as they are the future of Africa.  
Investment in training institutions is crucial as not everyone has to have a PhD.  A nation needs carpenters, welders, tailors, cleaners, etc to develop.
The development of human talent will equate to new productivity, creativity and style of thinking.
Progression along the line of overall human development also includes decreasing children and mother mortality rates.
Why I read
I keep the company of intellectuals who help me appreciate that I do not know enough.  I do this by reading their books. During my journey, I have been able to get rid of misguided ideas and organise my thoughts and skills through their experiences.  My favourite authors include Steven Hawking, Carl Sagan, and Albert Einstein.
I am told that I am a heretic and will not take anything at face value.  I tend to do my investigation through reading as unfortunately, I am unable to meet with the authors.
When we die, we leave behind words that we say or write.  
These will be kept in the cyber world for many years to come.  In 200 years, there will be very few people talking about the borderless world, if the idea succeeds.   However, I hope that we will be among the few thousands who will have made history through our campaign for such a society.  It may appear as self-glory and a waste of time; however, I do not believe so.
The impact of WikiLeaks 
I believe WikiLeaks has been the best thing to happen to mankind.  It has exposed poor leadership in developed countries and the hypocrisy of leaders, i.e. they say one thing and do the opposite.  We see them furthering their own interests above those of their nations.
Diplomats are also not well presented.  Fully aware that their host country is imploding, they are selling them new cobras, armoured vehicles and weapons instead of discussing ways of changing the nation’s fate or early crisis plans in case of a flood, etc. 
Leaders appear to be naked and have not come out as noble beings.  It is no wonder humanity has lost respect in leaders.  
WikiLeaks has also exposed that there is no grand conspiracy.  The conspiracy is amongst us.  Leaders are seen kissing each other in public whilst in their hearts, some of them would like to bomb the other’s nation.
Appreciation of unity and a borderless world
Society lacks toleration for ethnicity and has an attitude that one race or type of people is better than others.  
I will not restrict myself to my nation or religion if it teaches me limitations.
Mankind is not limited to one prophet.  Mankind is here for the goodness of everybody.  We cannot straight jacket over six billion people in one ideology. To avoid discrimination in a state, we should avoid bringing religion into the development of mankind.  
Human beings are unique as conscious beings and yet are one.  We should promote reason, logic and toleration to avoid complications in the world; have an encompassing and global spirit; instill moderate attitudes in our children, training them to be global citizens and not as Africans, Pakistans, Muslims, etc.  We should help them appreciate that all human beings are unique and as such can help in the development of the world.
I get many compliments about the success of my children. However, I argue that success should not be measured by one’s amount of enterprise; it should be measured by how good you are as a human being and what you have done for others.  This is how my children, my wife and I will be judged.  I urge my children to be open-minded and reject ideas that have no place in science or logic.
As parents, we should also accept that we do not know the truth and are not the guardians of truth, for no one knows it all.  Isaac Newton said, ‘The more you uncover, the more remains hidden, that needs to be sought out and exposed.  It is ultimately impossible to know everything.’
We are here to change.  Any life that refuses to change will eventually become extinct.  Mankind may have another one to two billion years to live on earth yet our civilization is only ten thousand years old. 
I do not think systems will allow the failure of one continent or another.  It is not a situation of winner takes it all.
In my opinion, I believe, Africa and Asia are the future.  It is going to be in everyone’s interest to incorporate the vast human infrastructure available in Africa.  
There is a huge demographic failure in Japan, China and Russia.  Japanese will not be around to enjoy the wealth they have created.  Growth rate for the next 50 years is in regression for these countries and they will have to import labour from other countries in 100 years’ time.  
Mr Iqbal Laif, the humanitarian
Mr. Iqbal Laif is a great believer in people’s potentials and capabilities, so much so that he funds some of his staff education.  Some of his plumbers and painters received an education in IT, e.g. OPERA 5, a hotel software program.  He is fully aware that his staff can leave at anytime and does not mind.  He sees himself as a small entrepreneur who cannot refuse to offer work when approached, tending to select the weakest in society.  He refers to this as the ethos of Hotel Rafayel. For example, a former kitchen porter has now become Deputy Chef.  His attitude has enabled him to have appreciative and supportive staff. The 900 food reviews also label Hotel Rafayel as a gold star hotel.

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Interview by Rita Lutalo 

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