Aleem Siddiqui Guiapal
Executive Director of the Regional Economic Zone Authority
He began the interview with a J-1 Scholar Intern Ethel Xu with the sweetest cupcake from a local shop and finished the interview with positive vibes and insightful ideas. Aleem Guiapal is finishing his program at Michigan State University as a Humphrey Fellow in April. He is more than excited to journey home but feels sad to leave Michigan, a place he has embraced and learned to call home.
Tell me more about yourself.
I am the executive director of the Regional Economic Zone Authority where I am in charge of the policies, plans, and programs of the economic zones in Muslim Mindanao in the Philippines. My main focus is to infuse and create the ideal platform for the local economy to be active, to bring international and domestic business into the area and stimulate growth and entrepreneurship. I am also longing to locate more resources to diversify income sources in the Philippines.
What attracts you to the U.S and encouraged you to come to MSU?
I joined the Humphrey Fellowship program after a competitive round of applications from scholars from nearly 100 countries. Michigan State University is a recognized expert in agriculture and industries like automobile manufacturing. The technological support the University provides and their various innovative platforms interested me greatly. It is very similar to what I do back home. In developing countries like the Philippines, we need to improve our technology and therefore increase the income of the citizens. My studies here in the U.S with respect to mass production will benefit me as I apply what I learned to support the economic development of Philippines. Another goal that I hope to achieve is the creation of multilateral income sources so that my home country doesn’t have to rely solely on agriculture for stable revenue.
What are your goals and plans upon your departure for home?
Through my involvement with the MSU Innovation Center, I was exposed to multiple programs and have participated in a lot of different workshops, conferences, and was even able to speak and present my insights at events like United Nations Human Rights Day, which was hosted by the UN Association of Greater Lansing. I also facilitated meetings with the MSU Innovation Center along with the help from Start-Up Weekend to provide insightful events for the other scholars.
In developing countries, there is always a problem of accessing financing. Based on what I have learned here, I am planning to develop a platform called “i-konnect” and strive to connect developed economies with the developing economies. For example, people who try to start a business in a developing country may apply for funds from i-konnect in order to succeed and continue to grow their potentials and ideas. $2000 might not be a big deal for successful companies in the U.S, but this amount certainly would assist and lift the capabilities and possibilities for young entrepreneurs in the Philippines.
There will need to be regulations and criteria to sort out the best business ideas to provide funding. First of all, it has to be a sustainable idea. Secondly, it needs to have the potential of income generation. Finally, it has to create social impact. The U.S capital which funded the business will have the joint venture with it so that it can potentially generate revenue and in a sense “pay back” the initial funds they provided. This concept is still just an idea, but I want to go home and have it officially launched so as to start making an impact.
What does the cultural exchange you have experienced mean to you?
My experience here in Michigan has been very positive which makes it very hard to leave. I feel the love and warmth of this huge community. People in Michigan they know how to smile and embrace people regardless of their origins. It’s like home for me. It’s all about peace and respect and that’s essential in this world as it is changing so fast. Even though there was a time when I encountered questions from the hotel security who wanted to know what I was doing in the hotel because I dress too casual, I chose to react nicely and politely by handing him my business card.
Growing up, I learned to smile and that it doesn’t hurt to be nice. People need to see and understand the value others are bringing into their world. The perspectives and experiences people have are valuable and distinctive. Therefore, I think Michigan has a very strong asset because it is such a positive place for international professionals and students.
Words and stories that you want to share with your fellow scholars and the whole MSU community.
My father told me that, in today’s world, people are not looking for others who are solely smart, but also those with whom they can work with successfully. IQ is no longer the only standard for success, intelligent collaboration and emotional intelligence is getting more and more crucial while globalization is expanding and cultural integration is getting intense in some major areas and countries.
The positive energy Aleem has is invaluable and impressive. We have no doubt about his bright future and we are proud to call him a Spartan!