Catalysts for Growth: Supporting Entrepreneurs in Rwanda’s Tourism Industry
Accounting for roughly half of Africa’s formal jobs, micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) play a critical role in addressing the youth employment challenge on the continent (International Finance Corporation, 2013). This is especially true in emerging markets where, according to the World Bank, most formal employment is generated by small- and medium- sized businesses. These businesses create four out of five new positions.
In Rwanda’s fast-growing tourism and hospitality sector, job creation will be driven primarily by entrepreneurs and small businesses. Which is why the Foundation’s Hanga Ahazaza initiative focuses on ensuring these enterprises have access to financial services, mentoring, and skills training. This type of support is vital so that they can continue to expand, drive innovation, and create job opportunities for others. It’s estimated that this sector will create or support 151,000 direct jobs and 270,000 jobs in related sectors like agriculture and food processing by 2030.
Inkomoko, a Rwandan affiliate of African Entrepreneur Collective and one of the Foundation’s Hanga Ahazaza partners, has found that MSMEs in the hospitality and tourism sector face unique challenges, including:
- Obtaining a tourism operating license;
- Having access to and operationalizing finance tracking systems and online marketing platforms;
- And the ability to manage seasonality or strong fluctuations in their revenue over a yearly period.
Over the next three years, Inkomoko is supporting 270 tourism and hospitality businesses in Rwanda and expect their work to result in approximately 2,970 new jobs.
“My husband and I have always liked hosting friends and travelling, that is why we decided to start a business in hospitality and tourism.”
Florence and her husband have always had passion for travelling, getting to know people, hosting them, and learning more about different cultures. Based on that passion they decided to open a bed and breakfast in Kigali that would give them the opportunity to start small.
Taking a leap of faith, Florence quit her job to pursue her dream. Florence was highly motivated — not only because it was her dream, but also because she felt that she had the necessary skills.
“As a woman and mother, you have to constantly think about the well-being of the people in your house. Cleanliness, meals, and security are your priority, and I decided to put these skills to good use by opening a bed and breakfast.”
After a few months, Florence’s bed and breakfast business was running smoothly, and she was able to break even. This early success solidified her conviction that it could become a very successful business.
A year later, Florence decided to expand and open a second bed and breakfast to accommodate guests during the high season. It was then that she realized she was struggling to reach new clients and with her bookkeeping, so she sought support through the Inkomoko as part of the Hanga Ahazaza initiative. She’s currently gaining practical skills, including sales, marketing, and finance to strengthen her business.
She is receiving positive feedback from her clients and good reviews on tourism platforms. She is always looking for opportunities to build the capacity of her staff to be able to increase the quality of the services they offer and have higher standards.
In 2014, Daniel was among twelve people chosen by the Akagera National Park in Rwanda to become tour guides and support existing guides during the high season. He noticed that people visiting the park were looking for additional activities outside of the tour. He decided to promote cultural activities in the neighbouring villages such as cow milking, traditional dance, arts and crafts and other local products.
After a thorough assessment of the market, Daniel and the other guides launched these activities in 2015 and sought help from Inkomoko to help them to shape the business.
“We attend training every year to make sure we improve the quality of our services,” he says.
Inkomoko is currently working with Daniel and his colleagues to develop a website to create more visibility for their business and allow them to tap into a larger market of potential customers. Within the next two years Daniel and his business partners plan to purchase tour vehicles and open the first tour company in the Eastern Province of Rwanda.
“Entrepreneurs in Rwanda have amazing business ideas. It is important that they seek advice from professionals to help them create and grow businesses!” says Daniel.
Daniel and Florence take pride in managing and growing their businesses. “Entrepreneurship is a passion, entrepreneurs should do what they like! They should put the heart in their businesses and always care about the details. That is how they will be able to sustain!” says Florence.
Hanga Ahazaza is a $50 million, five-year initiative focused on increasing employment opportunities for young people while expanding the tourism and hospitality sector in Rwanda.
Rwanda is the first country that the Foundation is approaching through the lens of the Young Africa Works strategy.