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Ashish J. Thakkar’s Mara Phones signs export deal with Angolan firm

Mara Phones is a subsidiary of Mara Group and operates in Rwanda and South Africa.

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Businessman Ashish J. Thakkar.

The first African smartphone manufacturer, Rwanda-based Mara Phones has entered into a deal with the Angolan company MISALE to export its mobile phones to the country.

According to Taarifa, the agreement was signed on Nov. 17 during a business forum organized by the Rwandan Development Board, with Rwandan and Angolan companies attending.

Owned by business mogul Ashish J. Thakkar, Mara Phones is a subsidiary of Mara Group. It operates in Rwanda and South Africa and prides itself as the producer of the continent’s first smartphone. It launched operations in October 2019 with the vision of becoming a leading brand in Africa.

Mara Phones was designed in partnership with Google as part of the Android One Program. Since its inception, it has launched about three different phone brands, including Mara Z, Mara X and Mara S. It also plans to launch a new phone in mid-2022.

Billionaires.Africa understands that the company is facing stiff competition from more established brands in terms of pricing. For example, the retail price of Mara X and Mara Z are $190 and $130, respectively. This is much higher than the cheapest Samsung phone, which sells for $54.

Mara Phones runs at 20-percent capacity as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted the economy in 2020 and 2021. However, Mara Phones Managing Director Eddy Sebera told Taarifa: “Things are getting better and most countries are reopening. We have exported our phones to 76 countries (Africa and the rest of the world), as the company grows steadily. We are happy with the progress in the domestic market.”

East Africa

Kenyan businessman John Kimani receives $1.2 million in dividends from agro-allied firm, Kakuzi

Kimani owns a 32.3-percent stake in Kenyan agricultural company.

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Kenyan businessman John Kimani.

Despite a double-digit decline in the profit of Kenya-based agro-allied company Kakuzi in 2021, Kenyan businessman and leading media mogul John Kimani was paid a dividend of Ksh139.3 million ($1.2 million) from his stake in the agricultural firm on Friday.

Kimani, one of the Nairobi Securities Exchange’s wealthiest investors, owns a 32.3-percent stake in Kakuzi, He also controls substantial equity positions in Centum Investments and Nation Media Group.

The $1.2-million dividend, which was paid into Kimani’s bank account on Fri., May 20, following shareholder approval at the group’s annual general meeting, was paid from the Ksh431-million ($3.7-million) payout approved by the company’s board based on its 2021 financial results.

At the end of 2021, Kakuzi’s board of directors proposed paying its shareholders a dividend of Ksh22 ($0.189) per share, a 22-percent increase from the Ksh18 ($0.154) per share paid last year, despite reporting a 48.6-percent drop in earnings from Ksh622.03 million ($5.43 million) in 2020 to Ksh319.74 million ($2.8 million).

The company’s 8.7-percent drop in revenue from Ksh3.61 billion ($31.5 million) to Ksh3.29 billion ($28.7 million) caused the earnings to decline, which did not prevent the company from increasing its dividend payout by 22 percent.

Kakuzi Chairman Nicholas Ng’ang’a assured shareholders that strategic plans had been activated to accelerate and enhance returns by diversifying the variety of produce delivered to domestic and global markets in an effort to reward shareholders with an even higher dividend payout in the coming years.

“We are part of a global marketplace and the products we produce often face stiff competition from producers in other countries. We, therefore, embarked on a very significant diversification program several years ago to ensure that Kakuzi is not dependent on any one crop,” Ng’ang’a said.

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East Africa

Led by Kenyan banker James Mwangi, Equity Group invests $3.3 million in DRC subsidiary

Its total investment in the country is now $148.4 million.

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Kenyan banker James Mwangi.

Equity Group Holdings, Kenya’s largest financial services group led by renowned banking tycoon James Mwangi, has invested an additional Ksh383 million ($3.3 million) in its Democratic Republic of the Congo subsidiary in 2021, as it moves to scale up the operation of one of its most profitable operations outside Kenya.

Its latest investment in its DRC subsidiary brings its total investment in the country to Ksh17.3 billion ($148.4 million), second only to Kenya’s Ksh40.7 billion ($349.1 million), highlighting its interest in the Central African nation.

The move comes after the Mwangi-led banking conglomerate purchased a 7.7-percent stake in Equity Bank Congo (EBC) from the German sovereign wealth fund KfW for Ksh996 million ($8.54 million), increasing its stake in EBC to 94.3 percent.

The acquisitions in other market segments sparked a change in the group’s traditional policy, as it had never acquired any lender outside of the local market, resulting in the group gaining a significant 27-percent market share in the DRC, compared to the 15-percent organic growth that it recorded in Kenya.

Equity Group’s profit increased by 36 percent in the first quarter of 2022, from Ksh8.7 billion ($74.9 million) in the first quarter of 2021 to Ksh11.9 billion ($102.4 million) in the same period of 2022.

The strong growth in earnings can be attributed to an increase in net interest income, which increased from Ksh20.34 billion ($175.1 million) to Ksh26.67 billion ($230 million) as the group delivered a resilient financial performance despite operating environment challenges.

EBC had the highest earnings growth in the first quarter ended March, with a 269-percent increase in net profit to Ksh1.4 billion ($12 million), as margins improved.

The subsidiary contributed 12.1 percent of the group’s net income of Ksh11.9 billion ($102.1 million) in the period, a 33.7-percent increase from Ksh8.6 billion ($73.8 million).

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Tanzania’s richest man Mohammed ‘Mo’ Dewji gives commencement speech at Georgetown University

Tanzania’s richest man also received an honorary doctorate in humane letters.

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Mohammed Dewji. ©Billionaires.Africa

Mohammed “Mo” Dewji, Tanzania’s richest man, delivered Georgetown University’s commencement address on Friday, where he also received an honorary doctorate in humane letters from President John J. DeGioia and the Georgetown McDonough School of Business.

In his speech, Dewji mused on how the interconnectedness of the world today has rendered us even more disconnected.

“Like many parents here today, I worry about the challenges facing your generation,” he said. “Today’s world makes it easier to forget our community. New apps offer simulations of human connection, but make us feel more isolated. You can sleep five feet away from a roommate, yet still feel more distanced than two isolated villages in Tanzania.”

The billionaire called on graduating students to create a sense of purpose for the environments in which which they’ll find themselves; devote themselves to service of community; and not pursue success for vainglory or the sake of self-aggrandizement.

“So, when we get lost, how do we find the natural path back to community?,” he said. “It comes from the Jesuit phrase, outlined in Georgetown’s mission statement: Cura Personalis. Care of the Person. In Tanzania, we commonly use a similar phrase: ‘Tuko Pamoja’, meaning ‘We are together.’ We are community. No matter where I travel, from rural Tanzania, to London, to right here in D.C., I’m reminded that the values of Cura Personalis and Tuko Pamoja transcend languages, politics, religions, and cultures. The need for community is universal, because it brings responsibility and purpose to our lives. Remember, graduates, your successes are not yours alone. When we focus only on ourselves, we lose sight of our community. And, eventually, we lose sight of our most precious investment: our time with each other.”

Dewji spoke of how his personal sense of purpose and desire to uplift the lives of Tanzanians inspired his decision to return to Tanzania and join his father’s commodity trading company after studying and working in the United States. Dewji also said he was dissatisfied with merely trading food and general merchandise items, and was keen to create jobs and opportunities for Tanzanians – a move that led him to pivoting his father’s company from a trading house to an industrial behemoth.

In the past two decades, Dewji has built METL Group, his family’s company, into one of the largest homegrown industrial conglomerates in East and Central Africa, with 35,000 employees and annual revenues in the region of $2 billion. The group manufactures everything from textiles and beverages to edible oils and detergents.

METL is also one of the world’s largest farmers of sisal, owns container depots and liquid storage facilities, and has an extensive property portfolio in Tanzania. Dewji, who owns 70 percent of the company today, has a net worth that Forbes estimates at $1.5 billion.

Dewji previously served as a member of parliament for Singida-Urban in Tanzania from 2005 until his retirement in 2015. He received a BSBA from the McDonough School of Business in 1998.

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