Hanga Ahazaza is a huge blessing to the hospitality industry

Last week all roads literally led to Kigali with Rwanda hosting a big African Union Summit at which African leaders signed a landmark agreement to create the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement. The commitment from the leaders is proof of growing concern to find lasting solutions to the challenges that the continent faces.

In a similar spirit, in the same week the Mastercard Foundation launched its new strategy dubbed Young Africa Works with a commitment to enable 30 million African youth especially young women to secure dignified and fulfilling work by 2030. It was no accident that  the Mastercard Foundation chose Rwanda as the launch pad of the new strategy. Rwanda has proven beyond doubt to be one of the most progressive African countries and it only makes sense for the Mastercard Foundation to set sail where the wind blows.

The Master Foundation announced two new programs in Rwanda aimed at directly addressing the overall goal of increasing economic opportunities for young people in Africa. The continent has an obvious population challenge of high population growth coupled with insufficient employment opportunities and where they exist there is a challenge of skills.


One of the sectors that have proven pivotal to the economies of many African countries is the Tourism sector. The continent is blessed with some of the rarest wildlife and other natural features that many would love to experience. However the potential  for this industry is not yet fully exploited due to several factors including poor skills for those involved in the tourism and hospitality sector. This sector is all about experiences and you need people with the right skills, knowledge and attitudes in charge of things.

“Youth unemployment in Africa is the issue of our time. Together, we have an extraordinary opportunity to shape the future and increase prosperity for all,” said Reeta Roy, Mastercard Foundation President and CEO.  

The Mastercard Foundation announced a commitment of US$100 million for two initiatives in Rwanda one of which is Hanga Ahazaza, which will specifically seek to increase employment and enterprise opportunities for young Rwandans in the country’s growing tourism and hospitality sector. This initiative is coming just at the right time when Rwanda is doing all it can to harness the potential of tourism.

Indeed tourism has been one of the major contributors of the Rwandan economy thanks in part to the fact that the country is blessed to host the rare and endangered mountain gorillas. The efforts that have been put in place to conserve these rare species and save them from extinction have proved that Rwanda is a good place for such an initiative. The population  of the mountain gorillas has increased and now the government is in the process of acquiring more land from the people to increase on the size of the park.

Elsewhere, Akagera National Park now boasts of the famous Big Five with lions and rhinos recently reintroduced into the park. Poaching is almost unheard of, due to increased security in the park and sensitization of the people living near the parks and the country in general. Overall, the future of wildlife tourism in Rwanda is looking quite bright. Domestic tourism is another policy the government has embarked on with the Tembera uRwanda campaign that encourages Rwandans to explore the beauty of their country.


The Rwandan government also embarked on developing and implementing a robust MICE tourism strategy. MICE refers to that tourism segment that covers meetings, incentives, conferences and events. The construction of the Kigali Convention Centre as well as new hotels of international repute such Kigali Marriott and Radisson Blu was a sign that Rwanda was ready for take off especially when you couple this with the expansion of the national carrier, Rwandair.

All the above serve as a good foundation for the Hanga Ahazaza (which means , create the future) initiative that will seek to equip 30,000 young men and women with customer service, ICT and digital literacy skills, and provide on-the-job- training and opportunities for employment. Small businesses in the same sector will also benefit from this initiative through access to financial services and business development skills.

All this will go a long way in not only improving the tourism and hospitality sector in Rwanda but also in the region since these initiatives are set to be rolled out to other parts of the continent in due course.

Facts to note

Hanga Ahazaza, meaning “create the future” in Kinyarwanda, is a consortium of partners from the education, development, and private sectors. Working together, they will support small businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector through increased access to financial services and training, and by connecting them to young people who have the skills they need to be successful employees.

• Each year, 125,000 young people are expected to join the labour force in Rwanda, but they face significant barriers to employment.1 More than 65 percent of youth between the ages of 14 and 35 are considered underemployed.2
• Rwandan youth, women in particular, lack relevant technical and soft skills, business expertise, access to financial services and tools, and support to start a business or search for a job.
• When entrepreneurs and small businesses access financial services, they have the resources to grow, expand, and create job opportunities for others in the community.
The Opportunity
• Growth in Rwanda’s tourism and hospitality sector is a key national priority. It’s vital to reducing poverty, improving youth employability, and moving the nation to middle-income status. The sector will have an estimated 151,000 jobs by 2030.3
• Improved access to financial services and tools, business development skills, entrepreneurship coaching and mentorship can support entrepreneurs and small businesses as they grow and hire more young people.
The Foundation’s Response
• The Mastercard Foundation’s Hanga Ahazaza initiative will equip 30,000 young men and women with the skills they need to transition into employment in the tourism and hospitality sectors.
— 17,000 will be new, entry-level employees.
— 10,000 existing employees and 3,000 new and existing industry managers will be equipped with the skills needed to secure employment in hotels, restaurants, and other tourism and hospitality enterprises.
• Young people will receive training in customer service, ICT and digital literacy skills, and receive on-the-job training and opportunities for employment.
• The initiative will coordinate with training institutions and providers to improve the quality and relevance of training materials. This will ensure they are aligned with national and global standards within the tourism and hospitality sector.
• Hanga Ahazaza will also support small businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector through increased access to financial services and business development skills training so they can create more employment opportunities for young people.

About the Mastercard Foundation

The Mastercard Foundation seeks a world where everyone has the opportunity to learn and prosper. The Foundation’s work is guided by its mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion for people living in poverty. One of the largest foundations in the world, it works almost exclusively in Africa. It was created in 2006 by Mastercard International and operates independently under the governance of its own Board of Directors. The Foundation is based in Toronto, Canada. For more information and to sign up for the Foundation’s newsletter, please visit www.mastercardfdn.org. Follow the Foundation at @MastercardFdn on Twitter.



About Allan Ssenyonga

I am a Ugandan freelance writer/journalist based in Kigali, Rwanda. I have an insatiable desire for understanding and trying to explain media, political, cultural and social dynamics.
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