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Dropped Out From School, Became Africa’s Youngest Billionaire

When you start building something from nothing, it boosts your confidence. This is the guiding philosophy behind 33-year-old Ashish Thakkar’s successful entrepreneurial journey. His conglomerate Mara Group is estimated by some to be worth over $1 billion, which would make him Africa’s youngest billionaire.

Ashish had been born in the United Kingdom to Gujarati parents who were migrated to Africa in 1980s. They moved to the United Kingdom in 1971 when Idi Amin enforced the expulsion of Asians from Uganda. He was just 12-year-old when his family was again forced to leave the country. The family had to go through the toughest time as they were left with little money and had to start life from scratch. Due to bad financial condition, Ashish was forced to quit the school. To fulfill the basic needs of the family, his father started a small business by taking an $11,000 loan. As a teenager, Ashish decided to play his own part in rebuilding the family’s fortunes by trying his luck in business.

Ashish started his humble journey by selling his new computer to a family friend for a profit of $100. Immediately realising that making money didn’t have to be complicated or difficult, he then bought and sold the second computer. After the successful attempt, he started  selling computer hardware brought from Dubai in Uganda. In less than a year, he became a major supplier of computer hardware to the African continent by setting up a shop in Dubai. Over the years, his small hardware supply operation became one of the biggest IT companies in Africa with 7,000 employees across 26 countries and more than $100 million in annual revenue.

Since then the Mara Group has grown and diversified. It now has businesses as wide-ranging as telecoms infrastructure, packaging manufacture, hotels, conference centres and shopping malls, a paper mill, and thousands of acres of prime agricultural land. Founded with just $5,000 two decades ago, Mara Group is now estimated to have an annual turnover of over $100 million. It has created thousands of jobs across Africa and has fingers in countless pies, from real estate to e-commerce to agriculture.

Recently, Ashish has been honored and appointed as a World Economic Forum Global Young Leader. To help the next generation of entrepreneurs, he also runs a social enterprise called the Mara Foundation, which provides mentoring and other support to first generation entrepreneur. since it was launched in 2009, more than 160,000 entrepreneurs have received mentorship till now. From ground zero to youngest billionaire of a Country in less than two decades, Ashish has proved that even the sky is not the limit when it comes to the young man’s ambitions.