The Mara Foundation, the social enterprise of the Dubai-based but pan-African Mara Group, has announced that its will roll out its Mara Mentor mobile app in the UAE in collaboration with Emirates Foundation, the national foundation of the UAE.

Mara Mentor is a free application developed by Mara Online to support young business leaders and social entrepreneurs in their endeavours, regardless of their background, focus or experience levels, by helping them to connect with experienced professionals.

“The UAE youth are the driving force for change in the region,” said Ashish Thakkar, founder of Mara Group. “As business leaders, we can learn a great deal from them, but can also give a lot to them in the form of mentorship, guidance and advice.”

Clare Woodcraft-Scott, CEO of Emirates Foundation, commented that “research shows that start-ups and small businesses often fail because young entrepreneurs don’t have enough technical support or commercial acumen, and that a more experienced mentor can be instrumental in ensuring success.”

In the GCC, the number of mobile phone subscribers is set to hit 100 million by 2020, and the youth of the region are continuously looking for newer, faster and cheaper ways to communicate — a market dynamic that Mara Mentor is set up to exploit to the fullest.

Maytha Al Habsi, chief programme office for the Emirates Foundation added: “We know that there is a huge amount of energy and inspiration in this space but in order for great ideas to become reality, there is a real need for mentors to support youth and help them learn.”

Established in 2009, Mara Foundation focuses on fostering entrepreneurialism in Africa through a myriad of programmes designed to address the complete life-cycle of an entrepreneur’s business idea. Mara Mentor is already available in 17 African countries.

Mara Group, a Dubai-based African group founded by Uganda’s Ashish Thakkar, has also recently released its ‘Mara Messenger’ into the fiercely competitive market for mobile messenger apps, which it claims is more  tailored to the individual cultures of the continent.

“For the first time, we will have a truly home-grown messaging platform that is tailored to the individual cultures of the continent,” noted Thakkar in a brief interview with Forbes.

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