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Genocide refugee, CEO, and astronaut-to-be gives back to Africa with accelerator | VentureBeat

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Thakkar makes a strong case for investing in Africa, and its people. At 29 years old, he is the self-made owner and chief executive of Mara Group, a conglomerate with approximately $100 million in revenues and a staff of 5,000. Mara touches every industry from telecommunications to real estate, and its operations span 16 countries.

His own story is a true rags to riches tale. As a young child, his family relocated to Rwanda. Nine months later, the genocide started and they became refugees. Despite everything he has seen, Thakkar remains defiantly proud of his African heritage. “We have a fire in our belly to succeed,” he said.

In his spare time, Thakkar told me he advises East African governments to find better ways to inspire its young population through entrepreneurship. “The answer isn’t foreign direct investments,” he said. “The answer is nurturing small and medium sized businesses.”

He cites a statistic that 85 percent of Africa’s population is under 35. It’s an optimistic sign for African business that most countries are projected to have more working-age adults per child in 2030 than they did in 2006, as reported by the Population Reference Bureau.

Thakkar points to the growing market for mobile; it’s the fastest growing in the world after Asia. Read here about startups that are taking advantage of Africa’s mobile market.

85% of Africa is under 35. Amazing.

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