‘Africa must benefit from minerals’

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AFRICA should add value to its minerals and derive maximum benefit, instead of exporting them in raw form to the advantage of other countries, African billionaire entrepreneur Ashish Thakkar said on Friday.

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“We are exporting our resources and they create employment somewhere else, adding value somewhere else and selling it back to us at a profit yet the whole thing started with us,” Ugandan billionaire Thakkar (32) who heads the Dubai–based Mara Group at a Harare townhall meeting hosted by Zimbabwean publishing house Alpha Media Holdings, said.

“Let’s not export crude oil, let’s build refineries in our countries. Let’s not export iron ore, let’s make steel in our countries,” he said.

Thakkar has partnered former Barclays Plc chief executive Bob Diamond to form London-listed Atlas Mara, an investment company on the verge of taking over pan-African banking group ABC Holdings in a $265 million deal.

Entrepreneurs, he said, should stop the blame game for their failure, but turn around challenging environments and make them a success story.

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“Sometimes people say there is no power . . . the roads are like this. But that is not targeted at you alone, it’s affecting the entire country,” he said.

“This is our time as Africans. We cannot keep on blaming the governments for things. Don’t blame circumstances, don’t look for excuses, don’t focus on guys who cut corners, focus on those who don’t.”

He said the continent should also promote young entrepreneurs and to formalise the informal sector through tax breaks, among other incentives.

“We need to take the informal sector very seriously and create jobs for youths,” he said, adding that entrepreneurs need to have long-term plans and to avoid cutting corners.

“You’ve got to start small, you have to be practical, realistic. You are not going to become big overnight,” he said.

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Thakkar started his business career when he was 15 by borrowing $5 000 to set up an IT company in Uganda. His company Mara has since evolved into an international multi-sector business, with operations and interests across 19 African countries.

“There are no shortcuts in business. It’s a tough journey. Build a solid foundation. By having the right values, the right ethics, it will be the only way you create the real depth in your organisation,” he said.

Mara has 22 regional offices in Africa, employing 10 000 people.

– The Source