The fifth Africa Youth in Tourism Innovation Challenge (AYTIC) concluded at the Africa Tourism Leadership Forum & Awards 2023 in Gaborone, Botswana, last week, with Gloria Kisilu taking home the ultimate prize for her product The Shaba.
The Shaba in Kenya is a social impact design brand that works closely with rural communities to make handcrafted sisal bags, ultimately connecting them to potential buyers such as hotels, lodges, and souvenir shops through its digital platform.
Kisilu told Tourism Update that the experience had been really humbling and a very emotional journey.
“From receiving the email that I got into the programme, to having to pitch my product in Namibia and Botswana, and also interacting with other people and understanding the challenges other communities face across the continent will be something that I will never forget and treasure for the rest of my life,” she said.
Kisilu added that The Shaba would continue its community-focused approach.
“The next step for us is to tell even more people about The Shaba value chain and taking people through it so that they are able to experience it first-hand. We also want to increase the capacity of our artisan base, meaning we will increase the impact that we have on communities.
“This will lead to more community visits and expanding the number of products that we currently produce. We are also looking at partnerships in and around the tourism industry in the next couple of months,” Kisilu said.
Why The Shaba as the winner?
Barry Clemens, Chairperson of the AYTIC, told Tourism Update that there were a multitude of aspects in selecting the winner, as they were looking for well-rounded entrepreneurs with a solid business model.
“All finalists had good solutions and business models which made it extremely hard to pick one, and there was extensive deliberation. In the end, it was the complete mix of use of technology, community involvement, business plan and uniqueness of the product, which is not just the bags, but also the technology used in the background which makes the company scalable. Also the confidence in the presentation and complete comprehension of all aspects of her business made her stand out during the pitches.
“Gloria’s win is an example that creative thinking, hard work and a good business plan can open up a whole new world of opportunities and that the entrepreneurship journey is one that is hard but rewarding,” he said.
Kisilu will receive a range of support with a total value of US$10 000.
“This includes a cash amount, enrolment into the Africa Tourism Innovation Hub, sponsored enrolment in an eCornell programme (from Cornell University in the US), UNWTO sponsored courses and one year of continued mentorship. The competition has given her a lot of exposure and it is extremely important to now support her to allow this exposure to be converted into real business,” said Clemens.
Africa Tourism Innovation Hub launched
Clemens added that the Africa Tourism Innovation Hub, in partnership with Durban University of Technology, Namibia University of Science and Technology, and Africa Tourism Partners, had been officially launched at this year’s Africa Tourism Leadership Forum 2023.
“We have created a platform to support entrepreneurs and negotiated up to 90% discount on courses through eCornell, as well as providing monthly seminars hosted by industry experts on various topics related to entrepreneurship. The hub will continue to grow support for African entrepreneurs,” concluded Clemens.