Mara Group’s Ashish Thakkar named chair of UN entrepreneurship council


The United Nations (UN) Foundation has announced Ashish Thakkar, founder of Mara Group and Mara Foundation, as the new chair of its Global Entrepreneurs Council (GEC), the first time an African entrepreneur has been selected to lead the council.

Thakkar’s Mara Group employs over 11,000 people across 22 African countries in sectors spanning technology, financial services, infrastructure, and real estate, while his Mara Foundation was launched in 2009 to foster and support emerging entrepreneurs through mentorship and venture philanthropy.

Disrupt Africa reported earlier this month Mara Foundation had partnered South Africa’s National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) to launch Mara Mentor, a platform designed to assist young entrepreneurs by connecting them with mentorship, in the country.

The UN Foundation said Thakkar would bring a “unique, global perspective” to his new role with the GEC, providing thought leadership on global issues.

“I have been fortunate to work with some wonderfully impressive entrepreneurs in Africa and globally. Working with the UN Foundation provides me an opportunity to work with like-minded leaders and entrepreneurs,” Thakkar said.

“I passionately believe that by working together we will create a thriving environment that can impact entrepreneurs in every country of the world. The foundation gives me a new platform to drive progress on the issues that matter.”

The council was established in 2011 as a strategic advisory board of high-profile entrepreneurs under the age of 45 who have made a commitment to helping find innovative solutions to global challenges.

“Partnering with Ashish means the UN Foundation will benefit from his incredible experience as we work with entrepreneurs to bring new expertise to UN causes,” said UN Foundation chief operations officer (COO) Rick Parnell.

“As we continue to expand UN Foundation projects with the entrepreneurial sector, Ashish’s expertise, connections, and leadership will enable us develop programmes that truly improve lives around the world.”

Kathy Calvin, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of the UN Foundation, said a multi-sector, integrated approach was required to drive sustainable development outcomes over the next 15 years.

“Ashish’s involvement will inspire other private sector leaders to engage in creating positive change,” she said.

Thakkar takes over from Elizabeth Gore, the entrepreneur-in-residence at Dell, who previously served as the UN Foundation’s entrepreneur-in-residence and as the foundation’s vice president of global partnerships. Gore led the formation of the GEC and steered it for the first four years of its existence.


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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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