Africa's Youngest Billionaire

Africa's Youngest Billionaire

The Talk from Mara's Ashish Thakkar

"I'm a refugee and astronaut, a businessman, an investor, and proudly African." Ashish Thakkar's first words at the Game Changer series in Harare. Being in his early 30's the "Africa's Youngest Billionaire” status had the whole room (300 people) poised and ready to see and hear what this young global leader looked like. In jeans, a t-shirt and a dark jacket he told his story, "I started out trading small bits of IT equipment from Dubai in Tanzania..." He went on to share how he managed to negotiate credit terms despite the fact that any African had a bad rep on actually paying after credit.

This story led into his description of the Mara Group and the Mara umbrella which represents many different arms and branches of impact.

"If there's a demand, then we want to create a supply. Whatever we do, we have a positive social impact. Whatever we do must be Pan-African, we're not thinking just local. We make sure we do things that are fast changing and different, and it all must be above board and legit. The end goal is to move the needle of change, creating a fully sustainable Africa.”

Ashish went on to explain that Mara Group is 100% family owned and it has caused them to have firm lines between family down time and board meetings. Being clear and open is an important skill in doing business no matter the location on the planet.

Mara also has a VC fund that gives between 10-20K to startups and ideas that they think will make a positive impact that will add to their "moving the needle goal and creating a fully sustainable Africa.”

No Foreign Donors
Ashish sort of proudly stated that Mara Foundation (another branch) doesn't accept any grants, but wants to be fully funded and endowed by the businesses they are involved in and have relationships with. Referring to that statement, he said with a smile "Yes, it's made it a little more difficult, but we've stuck with it.”

Other Great Statements (some paraphrased):

  • "The Indian tiger and Chinese dragon have had their days. It's now the African lion's time.”
  • "Don't get into the rat race. Don't make it about money. If you win the rat race, you're still a rat.”
  • "Don't get big headed. If I have to sit outside a minister's office for three hours I will, and If I have to come back the next day I will
  • do just that.”

His humble approach and casual dress, but solid vision opened up the minds of executives and entrepreneurs in the audience. Thanks Ashish for investing, disrupting, and breaking through all of the previous limitations placed on Africa. I truly believe “it’s now the African lion’s time."

(photo via wef)