Q&A: Nigeria’s Mara Mentor Hones Youth Entrepreneurship

Q&A: Nigeria’s Mara Mentor Hones Youth Entrepreneurship

Even though access to funding is usually seen as the major challenge that entrepreneurs in Africa are battling with, several of today’s successful businesses and enterprises in Africa started small and survived the rough and tough turfs. When the owners of such successful businesses share industry-tested success tips with the young entrepreneurs, it becomes easier for the later to blossom. This is where Mara Mentor comes in.

Mara Mentor was created with the aim of empowering the youths of Africa in their business endeavors, in recognition that they are the driving force behind economic growth and future prosperity.

In this exclusive interview, Mara Foundation online community manager for Nigeria, Douglas Imaralu spoke on the Mara Mentor Project and the vacuum it is filling — especially in Africa where it has already been launched in 22 countries. He also spoke on the unique opportunities that entrepreneurs from across Africa could benefit from through Mara Mentor, and how the service works.

AFKInsider: What is Mara Mentor all about?

Douglas Imaralu: Mara Mentor is an initiative of Mara Foundation, the social enterprise unit of Mara Group which operates in 22 African countries with 11,000 employees and was founded by Ashish J. Thakkar. Mara Mentor is an online community which connects ambitious entrepreneurs with experienced and inspirational business leaders/entrepreneurs.

The Mara Mentor project, which aims to enable, empower and inspire a generation of entrepreneurs, offers free training tools and access to top Nigerian business leaders who act as mentors on the platform. The mentors participate in forums specifically tailored to provide the necessary skills and business acumen young Nigerians need to become self-sufficient entrepreneurs and job creators.

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AFKInsider: Who can use Mara Mentor?

Douglas Imaralu: Anyone at anywhere. It is an open resource and it is available on web and mobile applications.

AFKInsider: Who are the mentors?

Douglas Imaralu: Business leaders, leading entrepreneurs, captains of industry… basically, people who are outstanding in business and have an excellent track record. And because Mara Mentor is in other countries as well, business leaders are not drawn from only Nigeria. For instance, we have launched in Kenya, Ghana and South Africa so mentees (young entrepreneurs who join the platform) have access to the expertise and knowledge base of mentors from other countries.

AFKInsider: Specifically, What does the mentorship entail for prospective mentees?

Douglas Imaralu: Put simply, Mara Mentor offers young entrepreneurs access to the necessary skills and competence they need to succeed in business. Mentors on the Mara Mentor entrepreneurship community invest their time and expertise to shape and optimize the business ideas of young entrepreneurs, thereby helping them fulfill their potential. They also encourage mentees to network among themselves in line with Mara Mentor’s philosophy, which encourages idea exchange and a collaborative approach to business.  Via forums and discussions on the web and mobile app platforms mentees can connect, converse and exchange ideas with leading entrepreneurs in Nigeria.

The Mara Mentor One-on-One, an offline business pitching session where mentees compete to win six-month mentorship placement under Nigeria’s finest business leaders, is also a viable platform where mentees can physically engage these experts with their business ideas. Mentors, in turn, give back, in terms of capacity building and practical experience in specific sectors. Presently, we hold One-on-One events quarterly, the last one was held on the 14th of October in Abuja. After the event, Mara Mentor facilitates mentor-mentee interactions for winners during the six-month mentorship period and also provide the mentees with further support during and after the event.

AFKInsider: How many applications have you received so far from Nigeria?

Douglas Imaralu: For the Mara Mentor One-on-One applications in Lagos we got about 1000 and 600 in Abuja, although this was brought down to about 700 for Lagos and 300 for Abuja after the first stage of screening. Ninety mentees eventually qualified to attend the Lagos event, while Abuja had 58. After the event, over 60 mentees won mentorship placements. Abuja recorded 40 winners.