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Youth-led businesses set to determine the future of tourism and hospitality in Rwanda

Youth-led businesses are acquiring skills and knowledge they will use to restructure, transform and change their businesses to sustain their growth in the tourism and hospitality industry.

According to the Rwanda Development Board, over the past decades, the tourism and hospitality sector has emerged as an important driver of growth and employment for the Rwandan economy.

In 2019, the sector directly employed slightly over 164,000 people (4% of the labor force) across different education and skill levels. It has also been the biggest employer for women and the youth.

Today, tourism and hospitality continue to be important and require continued efforts around skill development to grow sustainably and transform the lives of many other young people. It is in that light that ESPartners(ESP) in partnership with Mastercard Foundation Hanga Ahazaza introduced Tourism Inc.

The program aimed at nurturing Rwanda’s innovative Tourism and Hospitality businesses

Tourism Inc is an incubation program for youth and female-led startups in Hanga Ahazaza the tourism and hospitality sector has been curated to inspire young entrepreneurs to develop Innovative and scalable enterprises.

Tourism Inc offers a blend of technical assistance focused on business development, one-on-one coaching, a shared workspace, access to experts and market leaders, and funding.

The program was initiated four years ago and has seen its last cohort graduate on July 14. This program was comprised of 72% women entrepreneurs who have businesses ranging from food and beverages, event management, beauty and wellness, creative industry, digital marketing, fashion, floriculture industry, and agribusiness.

72% of the participants were women

Pius Abijuru the Programme Director for Tourism Inc said in the 7th Cohort graduation that one of the key parts of the program is co-creation.

He said, “We create a platform where young people bring their ideas and we help them out in the best way. Besides training, we make sure that we expose the young people the access to customers.”

One of the participants, Neema Mukandekezi, founder of Ikunde Women Fitness Center, a women’s only gym says the program has changed her approach to how she conducts business.

She said she has been able to acquire the skills required to not only develop but sustain the growth of her innovative idea.

Neema Mukandekezi plans on implementing and sustaining

Lisa Mutoni, founder of Ping Design says she joined the program at a critical point in her business journey. She said it was at a moment when they were about to close the shop. But through the program, she learned about business pivoting and was able to restructure and remodel her business.

She said, “We were able to learn how to pivot not in just what we do but to also get out of our bubble and see how we can change the vision and also restructure how we operate.”

She continued to say, “It is not a matter of people having the same idea, it is a matter of how you incorporate your own touch and personality into your it is all about the vision and that is something I learned through this program.”

Lisa Mutoni believes her business is reborn

During the ceremony, five female entrepreneurs were awarded seed funding to grow their businesses. Among those was Nadine Kanyana from Kanyana World, Yvonne Emmanuella Iradukunda from Rwagasabo Beverages, Mulinda Cynthia from Ikiraro Cy’inyambo, Neema Mukandekezi from Ikunde Women Fitness Cente, and Mugeni Euphrosine Niyidukunda from Avocare Ltd.

Nadine Kanyana from Kanyana World emerged in fifth place
Yvonne Emmanuella Iradukunda from Rwagasabo Beverages at the fourth place
Mulinda Cynthia from Ikiraro Cy’inyambo emerged as third place
Neema Mukandekezi from Ikunde Women Fitness Center in second place
Mugeni Euphrosine Niyidukunda from Avocare Ltd emerged as first place

Charity Kabango, Co-founder of ESPartners, said she believes these young people have a bright future ahead of them. She said their impact varies far beyond them.

She said, “These young people can be job creators.”

Rica Riwagamba, The Country Director of the Mastercard Foundation said that with intentionality, young innovative entrepreneurs can make the world a better place. She encouraged these young people to remain relentless and consistent.

She said, “There are going to be times when it is going to be tough but with consistency and hard work, you can get there. We believe in you, and we are rooting for you.”

For the last four years, Tourism Inc has supported 176 entrepreneurs supported of
which 72% were women and through those entrepreneurs, 518 new products and 360 were created among which 176 jobs are occupied by women.

Rica Rwigamba says entrepreneurship is not easy but that with consistency these young women can make it
Charity Kabango says Tourism Inc was all about co-creating with young entreprenuers
Young women supported each other throughout the program
ESPartners provides support to early-stage entrepreneurs from conception to validation
It is the beginning of a new journey for these young people
Inkindi Loic Muyango from Food Truck says he never imagined he would be an entrepreneur
Young women from the program were also awarded for their participation
These young people are encouraged to dream big and fear less

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