Vimbai Masiyiwa is an icon for women empowerment and mental health advocacy, using her position as CEO and Co-Founder of Batoka Hospitality to partner with and uplift African communities through business partnerships. Besides being the first African woman to own a five-star luxury game lodge in Zimbabwe, Masiyiwa is also a cancer survivor, philanthropist and champion for self-love at only 27 years old.
As an entrepreneur and savvy businesswoman, Masiyiwa aims to use Batoka Lodges to re-energise much-needed economic investment for Zimbabwe, and to empower fellow African businesswomen through sustainability projects that will provide partnership and employment opportunities.
Current partnerships include R&R Luxury, a natural, plant-based skincare brand from Guinea; and Patelli Teas, a Zimbabwean brand working on curating a specific new blend just for Batoka Lodges.
“A lot of establishments tend to partner only with South African businesses. They forget there is so much the rest of Africa has to offer,” Masiyiwa explains. “And I also think it’s very important to see them for what they are: our business partners who have valuable skills that we can both benefit from. I think tourism can be a catalyst for local economic growth through creating opportunity beyond just employment.”
Masiyiwa says that she aims to stimulate such opportunity by partnering with local farmers, leasing property from local communities, and purchasing baskets and crafts from local artists to display and sell in the lodge.
Masiyiwa is firmly committed to working with zero plastic, sourcing food from local suppliers, and relying on solar energy for power.
“As a young black woman, networking can be difficult,” Masiyiwa adds. “And this is an industry based quite heavily on networking. I really want to inspire others. So many women have so much to offer; they just need the opportunities to do so.”
As an advocate for mental health, Masiyiwa also appreciates how lodges can be peaceful, personal safe spaces for those looking for sanctuary and escape. “Self-love starts within yourself,” Masiyiwa believes. “I’d like to ensure a space where we can maybe partner with wellbeing companies in the future as well.”
Masiyiwa also holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems from UK Bryant University, as well as a Masters in Entrepreneurship & Entrepreneurship Studies from London’s University College.
Batoka Lodges hails from the acquisition of the former Zambezi River Camp and the Gorges Lodge. After extensive redevelopment, the five-star Batoka Zambezi Sands River Lodge launches this month, followed by Batoka Gorges and Little Lodge later in the year.