African countries urged to stop depending on aid from Europe, America

BY: Musah Yahaya Jafaru & Emmanuel Ebo Hawkson
Mr Ashish Thakkar
Mr Ashish Thakkar

The youngest African billionaire, Mr Ashish Thakkar, has urged African countries to wean themselves from aid from Europe and America.

He said continued dependence on the West for support was the cause of Africa's underdevelopment.

He, therefore, asked African leaders to focus on leveraging on the rich resources on the continent to engage in win-win trade with the West.

Delivering the maiden lecture of the Legacy Series organised by the Millennium Excellence Foundation (MEF) in Accra last Monday, Mr Thakkar said it was time for African countries to witness exponential growth in their respective economies.

"We are living in interesting times. This is our time. We have six fastest growing economies; we have a larger economy than India. This is our time, but we are misunderstood," he said.

Mr Thakkar was born in the United Kingdom (UK) but moved to Uganda as a teenager. He founded his own company, the Mara Group, in 1996 at the age of 15.

He began his business empire by importing computer parts, including keyboards, mouses and desktops, from Dubai.

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After he had received a $5,000 loan to start his company, he opened a small Information Technology (IT) business in a shopping mall across the street from his father's shop in Kampala but later relocated the company’s headquarters to Dubai.

He expanded the Mara Group into manufacturing, real estate, agriculture and IT services.

The company has branches in 25 African countries, with 14,000 employees.

African products

Mr Thakkar said Africa had rich resources such as cocoa and coffee, to which they could add value to create more wealth.

He advised Africans to take pride in their locally manufactured products and called for more trading engagements among African countries.

While lauding African leaders for signing the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement, Mr Thakkar urged Africans to focus on innovating technological products for their use and export globally.

He announced that his company would soon launch high-quality African smart phones and explained that his philosophy was how to be global in the market but remain local.

Tell your own story

He observed that Africa was physically large, but the Western media usually portrayed the isolated events in a bad light to create a poor image for the whole continent.

However, he said, the Western media closed their eyes to the positive stories on the continent, such as the peaceful democratic elections in Ghana, Nigeria and other countries.

Mr Thakkar, therefore, urged African countries to begin to tell their own stories, saying: "We need to tell our own story. We need to change our own narrative."

Other contributions

In a message, the Founder of the MEF, Mr Ashim Morton, noted that Africa was rising and challenged people to play their part in the development process.

The Managing Director of Zenith Bank, Mr Henry Oroh, underscored the need for African countries to integrate their resources and work together, despite their geographical locations.