He was born on 3 May 1946 in northern Sudan, of Nubian descent, the second of five children, four of whom were boys. His family moved to Alexandria, Egypt when he was young, and Father Fathi was employed there by a cotton company, and his mother Aida was very keen that they all get a good education.
In 1973, Ibrahim married Hania Morsi Fadl, an Alexandria University graduate from the year above him, whom he had known since childhood. They are now divorced, and Fadli is a Sudanese-born British radiologist, running the only breast cancer clinic in Sudan.
During the early 1980s Ibrahim taught undergraduate Telecommunication courses at Thames Polytechnic later to become University of Greenwich.
In 1989 he founded MSI, a consultancy and software company, which in 2000 was bought by the Marconi Company. Originally the company was helping the cellular industry designing their networks, before they shifted their focus to mobile phones in the late 1990s. MSI had 800 employees, who owned approximately 30% of the stock at the point of its sale; Ibrahim says he gave employees stock as a form of bonus.
After some years, when Celtel needed long term source of capital, they considered doing an IPO on a reputable stock exchange, for instance the London Stock Exchange. When it became public that they considered a public offering, they received a lot alternative offers. Many wanted to buy the company, and Ibrahim and his team decided to sell Celtel in 2004 to Kuwait-based Mobile Telecommunication Company (now Zain).
Since 2010, Ibrahim has lent his support to the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, a UN initiative which aims to spread the full benefits of broadband services to unconnected peoples.