Supporting young entrepreneurs and artisans in Africa

The future of tourism in Africa is sustainable – and it is female, argues Thomas Ellerbeck.
Supporting young entrepreneurs and artisans in Africa
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Gloria Kisilu’s grandmother was a basket weaver who used to bring local women together to weave as a group, helping and learning with each other. Despite working hard, playing by the rules and producing high-quality products, most of the women hardly earnt enough to support their families – the profit generated through their artisan products largely ended up in the pockets of middlemen.

Local products from developing countries account for 65% of all handicraft exports around the world according to Indego Africa, an NGO helping to empower female artisans in Rwanda and Ghana. So, it’s essential that artisans make the profit they deserve and don’t lose it to an intermediary, but rural communities often don’t have access to markets that are willing and able to pay them what their products are worth.

Inspired by her grandmother’s experience as an artisan, Gloria developed the Smart Community Centre App through a project with the TUI Care Foundation. The app allows artisans to receive and process orders directly, without the need for middlemen. It provides them with an efficient, transparent and equal platform to take orders and track their sales. Community members have been provided with a shared smartphone so they can all access it, and a second app, the Shaba App, has been developed for people to buy products and receive receipts. The project benefits over 400 artisans, massively increasing their profit margin - from 6 to an impressive 60 per cent.

For 76.8% of the women, innovation and continued development of their products are key areas of their entrepreneurial objectives – twelve percentage points higher than for male respondents.

Gloria is a role model for thriving African, female entrepreneurship. The TUI Care Foundation commissioned a study with the German Institute for Sustainable Tourism (Inatour) to analyse challenges faced by Positive Impact SMEs in Egypt, Kenya and South Africa. The study collected data from participants of the Tourism Recovery Programme - an initiative which was launched by the TUI Care Foundation together with Berlin-based NGO enpact – to provide direct support to travel and tourism business owners in an innovative combination of mentoring, training and financial assistance. 77% of participants in the survey were female. For 76.8% of the women, innovation and continued development of their products are key areas of their entrepreneurial objectives – twelve percentage points higher than for male respondents. The women also expressed a desire to drive forward sustainability and innovation to a greater extent in their businesses. In fact, 92.3% of all Kenyan respondents considered sustainability a very important component for future business growth in tourism. The future of tourism in Africa is sustainable – and it is female.

Also on the Forum Network: Migrant Entrepreneurship: Opportunities for societal renewal by Global Executive Director, Impact Hub

Migrants and refugees are not only an untapped source of talent, innovation and solution building: many are also committed to offering opportunities to others they will employ down the line as we help them grow their enterprises.

For many countries on the African continent, tourism is a sector with enormous potential. The sector drives economic and social development, it creates jobs and positively impacts environmental standards. For example, according to the World Bank, in Cape Verde, tourism represents around 25% of the national GDP, employing a large part of the population. 75.2% of respondents in the Tourism Recovery Programme study consider that tourism has a strong direct benefit to local communities - further testament to the potential of the industry as a force for good.

It's key to the successful development of the sector to identify and support talented and passionate women like Gloria – young, female entrepreneurs who combine an inspiring vision and innovative ideas with first-hand knowledge about their respective regions, and specifically about the unique challenges and opportunities each region faces. Entrepreneurs like Gloria often lack initial support in terms of tourism expertise – needing a network of business partners to help through mentoring, and better access to finance 74.3% of respondents from the Tourism Recovery Programme agreed that access to appropriate financing schemes was their most significant challenge as business founders.

This is what the international TUI Futureshapers Programme is about. It offers the tools, resources, expertise and workspace for Futureshapers to co-work and build the solutions that communities with tourism potential need. The programme empowers passionate young professionals who are committed to turning social and environmental challenges into entrepreneurial opportunities. At 27 years old, Gloria is at the beginning of a long promising career. After graduating from university with a Hospitality degree, she wanted to take the next step in her career by creating impact in the whole tourism sector and not just in the hotel where she was working. Like millions of other female entrepreneurs in Africa, she is ready to drive positive change in her community. With the right tools and empowerment, the sky’s the limit for the positive impact that she can achieve.

The TUI Care Foundation is supporting this year’s Youthwise, the OECD’s Youth Advisory Board, which was established in 2021 with a dual mission: to foster a better understanding of the OECD's work and international policymaking among young people, and to bring forth the valuable perspectives and ideas of youth to the Organisation.

Learn more about the Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions and Cities

We help local and national governments unleash the potential of entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises, promote inclusive and sustainable regions and cities, boost local job creation and implement sound tourism policies.

And also read: Joining Forces for Gender Equality

OECD countries continue to face persistent gender inequalities in social and economic life. Young women often reach higher levels of education than young men, but remain under-represented in fields with the most lucrative careers. Women spend more time on unpaid work, face a strong motherhood penalty, encounter barriers to entrepreneurship and fare worse in labour markets overall. 

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