Africa’s “youngest billionaire” is actually worth less than $600,000

Image: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
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Ashish Thakkar, the 35-year-old entrepreneur commonly referred to as Africa’s youngest billionaire, isn’t quite as successful as he would seem. A messy divorce is exposing his finances and attracting scrutiny into his business dealings.

In October, Thakkar told a family court judge in London that he was worth only £445,532 (about $541,000). He also noted that he doesn’t own a stake in Mara Group, his African investment group that has attracted the likes of former Barclays head Bob Diamond, with whom Thakkar co-founded the banking group Atlas Mara. Divorce proceedings have been halted until Thakkar’s total wealth, including his offshore assets, can be assessed.

A Wall Street Journal investigation published Feb. 2 reveals his various investments and projects are also not doing so well. Mara’s investments and assets are worth about $30 million, according to the Journal, which reviewed court documents and filings and interviewed people related to the company and Thakkar. In addition, Atlas Mara lost almost 80% of its stock market value over the last three years.

Thakkar told the paper that the company, which doesn’t have to file public financial reports, that he never claimed to be a billionaire, and that the firm has always been owned by his mother and sister. “Being the face of something doesn’t make you the owner of it,” he said.

Thakkar, whose family fled Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, has attributed his success to being a refugee. He left school at the age of 15 and began selling computer parts. According to Bloomberg’s Billionaires index, Thakkar’s net worth is about $425 million, and his most valuable asset is Ison BPO, an outsourcing company that operates in Africa and India.