Ashish Thakkar –Africa’s Youngest Billionaire

Ashish Thakkar, 32, is the founder and managing director of Mara Group, a conglomerate of companies with operations in 26 countries spanning four continents and employing over 7,000 people worldwide.

  • Although born in the United Kingdom, Ashish and his family moved back to Rwanda; however, after surviving the historic Rwandan genocide, the family later settled in Uganda. Ever since Ashish moved to Uganda at just 12 years old, he has been most passionate about the growth and development of the country, East Africa, and the whole of Africa.
  • Ashish’s entrepreneurial instincts were realised as a teenager, 15, when he sold his personal computer to a family friend. The $100 profit he made convinced him that there could be plenty of money in IT. More sales to friends, family, and his own school soon followed, leading him to start his first company during summer holidays in 1996.
  • He then borrowed $6,000 from his parents to further trade in computers, and within a year he transitioned from a high school student to a full time entrepreneur, naming his company, ‘Mara Group.’
  • The over 16 year-old pan-African multi-sector business conglomerate, Mara Group, currently operates in a broad range of sectors including information technology (IT) services, business process outsourcing (BPO), a multi-faceted mobile-enabled online platform, agriculture, real estate, hospitality, packaging and asset management.
  • Ashish whose personal net worth is estimated around $260 million (over ₦40 billion) now lives in Dubai, even though he devotes much of his energy to commercial and philanthropic initiatives in Africa. He has also been appointed on the advisory panels to several heads of state in sub-Saharan Africa, including Uganda, and he is also a team member of the Commonwealth Business Council as well as Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). He likes to be known as a British citizen, UAE resident with Indian culture and an African heart.

  • The culmination of Ashish’s business achievements has been instituting Mara Foundation with his wife Meera. Mara Foundation is the non-profit social enterprise of Mara Group which focuses on emerging African entrepreneurs. The Foundation works to create sustainable economic and business development opportunities for young business owners via its Mara Launchpad incubation centres and Mara Launch Fund.
  • Next Generation, the education programme of the Foundation, partners with Government-owned secondary schools in rural areas to improve governance, training and facilities; while Venture Capital Fund of the Mara Foundation assists businesses gain recognition and funding.
  • Mara Group has received global recognition for its achievements and contributions not only in Africa but also worldwide. In 2010, Mara Group was identified by the World Economic Forum as a dynamic high-growth company with the potential to be a driving force for economic and social change. Ashish was appointed as a World Economic Forum Global Young Leader.
  • Ashish has been profiled by several publications and media outlets including Forbes, The Economist, CNN, Africa Business Journal, Ventures Africa, San Jose Mercury, Reuters and the BBC.
  • Ashish’s flair for adventure and zeal for life made him to become a Founder Astronaut in Virgin Galactic's flight to space, where he is proudly representing East Africa, making him Africa's second Astronaut (after South African software millionaire Mark Shuttleworth) and East Africa's first. Ashish is the only African who shelled out the $200,000 ticket fee for the Virgin Galactic’s first flight to Space.
  • Ashish is a keen learner, open to the wisdom of others. He shares this habit with his hero Richard Branson, whose Virgin conglomerate is united by its founder’s energy and enthusiasm.
  • While delivering a key note address at the 2013 edition of the Africa CEO Roundtable and Conference on Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility (AR-CSR) which held at Tinapa Business and Leisure Resort in Calabar, Cross River State, Nigeria, Ashish said that he has chosen to invest in Calabar. He said Calabar became the choice place because he has always seen Nigeria as the best country in Africa, adding that Cross River further convinced him because of its available human and natural resources, couple with the conducive economic environment put in place by government to attract investments and investors.