At just 31 years old, and already heading a vast business empire he built from scratch, Ashish Thakkar has been referred to by some as Africa’s youngest billionaire. But this is a label the Ugandan entrepreneur doesn’t want to associate himself with. “Money should never be a measurement for anything,” says Thakkar, founder of the pan-African multi-sector business conglomerate Mara Group.
“I like to see myself as an entrepreneur that’s being disruptive — I like to be the underdog in a lot of cases,” he adds. “It’s all about how you go about it; but one thing I definitely don’t want to be known as is as ‘Africa’s youngest billionaire.'”
Whilst having problems with that specific description, Thakkar has no issue about claiming other, less corporeal, titles. An adventurous spirit, Thakkar is gearing up to become the first ever East African in space, proudly representing the region in the Virgin Galactic program, which offers paying customers the opportunity to travel beyond the Earth’s atmosphere.
“I’m taking quite a few [African] flags into space, as a way to kind of send a strong message that ‘look, we as Africans have the vision and the ability as well,” says Thakkar. “It’s something that started off for fun and it’s actually turned out to be something quite nice where we can send a strong message to say, ‘we’re coming, we’re going to mark our space in that territory too.”