Mentorship for young African entrepreneurs

Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama and Ugandan multi-millionaire tycoon Ashish J. Thakkar, on Friday officially launched Mara Mentor, an African multi-lingual online portal and mobile App for youth mentorship and entrepreneurship, in Ghana, as part of his government’s efforts in cultivating an entrepreneurship culture among the country’s teeming young population.

Mara Mentor, which was founded by Ashish J. Thakkar, is a project of the Mara Foundation, a social enterprise that encourages and supports young entrepreneurs in Africa. Mara Mentor, which is deployed on web and mobile platforms, links upstart African entrepreneurs with successful and established African business leaders for advice and mentorship, and is designed to enable entrepreneurs to build their networks and access the guidance that they need at the early stages of their business development. With the launch in Ghana, young Ghanaian entrepreneurs will now be able to access the Mara Mentor App for free via a smart phone app and website.

The official launch ceremony took place at the Flag Staff House, Accra on Friday, and was led by Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama and Ashish J Thakkar, Founder of Mara Group & Mara Foundation.

Speaking at the launch, President Mahama said that Mara Mentor would spark an entrepreneurship culture among the country’s youth. He urged Ghana’s young entrepreneurs to take advantage of the experience of the successful entrepreneurs and build successful, world-class business concerns.

Ashish J. Thakkar

Ashish J. Thakkar

“An idea is only as good as its execution, which is why it’s important for our youth to tap into the experience and expertise that Mara Mentor’s seasoned business leaders have to offer and use that to their advantage. Only then will they start seeing their ideas become reality,” President Mahama said.

Ashish J. Thakkar, the founder of Mara Group & Mara Foundation, said he is keen on seizing the opportunities presented by the proliferation of mobile phones in Africa to provide more young people with the expert advice that they need to launch and grow their businesses.

“I know that for entrepreneurs at the start of their journey, fear of failure can be a very real obstacle to their progress. For me, the best way to overcome that fear is to access guidance from real business experts.  That is why we have developed Mara Mentor – the tool that every entrepreneur needs in their pocket. We are thrilled to launch Mara Mentor with President Mahama and collaborate with the Government of Ghana to help create a new wave of young entrepreneurs,” he said.

With 25% of all Ghanaians aged between 15 and 25 and the proportion of young people having tripled in the past 40 years, job creation will be critical to economic development in Ghana. Many Ghanaian youths are seeking the tools and opportunities to start their own venture or join a small business.

Mara Mentor has been designed to enable, empower and inspire young entrepreneurs – a key objective of the Mara Foundation, the foundation which Ashish J. Thakkar founded to groom young African entrepreneurs into building successful businesses in Africa.

In the next few months, Mara Mentor will be running a number of complementary on- the- ground activities in Ghana, including campus storms, competitions and Mara One-on-One networking events. A video has also been created to raise awareness of the platform on Youtube.

Ashish J. Thakkar, 33, famously started trading computers at the age of 15 and parlayed that small trading operation into the Mara Group, a Pan-African conglomerate with interests in outsourcing, real estate, financial services and agriculture. He recently partnered with Bob Diamond, Barclays Bank’s former CEO, to launch Atlas Mara Co-Nvest, an investment company that has been acquiring significant stakes in a number of commercial banking institutions across Africa.

Editor’s Note:  This article appeared on the Forbes website on September 5, 2014.  

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