“Entrepreneurs are the backbone of our economy and we must support them in any way we can to ensure they become the job creators of tomorrow. I know from my own experience that starting your own business is tough.
What our youth need is practical, real world advice to help them develop the necessary skills and knowledge-base to get their business off the ground, “said Ashish J Thakkar, Founder of Mara Group and Mara Foundation. This was at the launch of the Mara Mentor Foundation in Lusaka on 24 on the sides of the African Development Bank Annual Meeting on 24th May, 2016
Speaking to an 80 plus audience, Thakkar was not shy to first speak about his past, how his parents had lost everything during the dictatorial Idi Amin regime and how the family was forced to move to Britain.
The story does not end there, they had thus rebuilt their lives in the UK and after twenty years had decided to return to Africa and this time to Rwanda – unfortunately in time to witness the genocide. The family had to evacuate to Uganda via Burundi back to a helpless situation and with nothing once again.
When he was 15 years old, he dropped out of school with a plan to buying computers from Dubai and selling them in Uganda from a $5,000 loan he got from his parents in 1996. Thakkar has never looked back since then. His net-worth is estimated at $260 million. That precise decision expanded into the Mara Group with interests in communication technology, financial services, tourism, manufacturing, information, renewable energy and real estate. The Group that he has built himself operates in over 20 countries all over the world.
It was for this reason that Thakkar would talk about his passion for business and focus on the Mara Mentor Foundation whose purpose is to enable, empower and inspire young entrepreneurs by way of mentorship, guidance and advice. The Foundation was established in 2009.
“As a serial entrepreneur, I understand the challenges that face young African entrepreneurs trying to set up a business from building a network, to gaining access to funding, to scaling up and diversifying. That is why we developed Mara Mentor, a free online app that helps aspiring young entrepreneurs build their network and seek crucial business advice from seasoned business leaders from around the world,” he would add.
For this reason, Minister of Youth, Sport and Child Development, Vincent Mwale would point out that the occasion of the Mara Mentor Foundation fell in line with President Edgar Lungu’s views at the launch of the 2015 Youth Policy and Action Plan for Youth Empowerment and Employment. The policy was aimed at achieving a direct positive impact on poverty reduction and to ensure sustainable development and social inclusion.
Minister Mwale would also call on the youth and women entrepreneurs to participate in the Mara Mentor programme, “We encourage our youth and women entrepreneurs to download the Mara Mentor App and benefit from a wealth of knowledge from mentors in Zambia and around the world.”
He would further call on business leaders in Zambia to give their time to mentoring the youth, adding, “This will be a worthwhile investment on your part as you will be contributing towards sustainable small businesses that will create jobs for today and future generations.”
Zambian mentors that attended the occasion included, Minister of Gender Prof. Nkandu Luo, Minister of Agriculture Given Lubinda and Minister of Sport, Youth and Child Development, Vincent Mwale. Others that were showcased were David Kombe of Blackdot, Mabel Mungomba of BelComm, Sylvia Mwansa, CEO of SBM, Board Chairperson of Focus general Insurance Beatrice Nkanza, Bank of Zambia Deputy Governor for Administration, Tukiya Kankasa Mabula, Founder of Kupu’s Young Women Network, Norena Chiteba, Soccer Star Christopher Katongo and musician Jordan Katembula.
Speaking to this writer on the role of a Zambian mentor to an upcoming entrepreneur, Mentor David Kombe said, “I would advise Zambian entrepreneurs to take advantage of Mara Mentor App. It links them with experienced business people who could give them sound advice on business. It is a good App to use at any given moment”
By Ben Kangwa