• Saturday, June 22, 2024
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African youth push boundaries in tourism with innovations at AYTIS

African youth push boundaries in tourism with innovations at AYTIS

There is no better way to describe the ‘Africa Rising’ phenomenon in Tourism than the success stories generously told by young innovators at the Africa Youth in Tourism Innovation Summit platform every year.

For six now and running the AYTIS has consistently spurred healthy rivalry among African youth in tourism and the continent is happier for it with the numbers telling the story better.

Since inception in Durban, South Africa in 2019, the AYTIS has brought together over 2500

African youth and over 500 tourism and affiliated industry professionals and policymakers from over 40 countries, physically or virtually.

Credit goes to Africa Tourism Partners (ATP), the convener and organiser of the summit, who through strategic partners such as UN Tourism, BTO, MILLVEST and AfCFTA, has delivered value on the continent’s tourism value chain through the innovations of Africa’s youth tourism entrepreneurs in the last six years.

This year is not different as ambitious African youth took their innovations in tourism a notch higher, offering the industry tech-driven operations that have eased challenges they hitherto faced.

Also, this year, Namibia hosted the summit at Windhoek, its enthralling capital city, ending a three-year hosting right.

After a rigorous screening and pitching process, Top 5 finalists emerged at the Windhoek summit.

Of course, they are Africa’s best in terms of innovative tourism entrepreneurship.

They include, in no particularly order, Itaagi Devin,CEO, Canine Safaris Ltd Uganda; Joseph Owiredu, CEO, Fihankra ComTech Ltd, Ghana; Ajena Jafar, founder/ CEO, Tour Plug, Uganda; Kedumetse Liphi, founder/chief engineer, Ked-Liphi (Pty) Ltd, Botswana and Gerald Muema, co-founder and technical advisor, ReNewGen Tech Ltd, Kenya.

The five brought their A-game from the first day of the 2024 edition to the screening process and to the ultimate pitching sessions at the AYTIS on May 29, 2024 in Windhoek, and were able to convince the judges with their innovations in tourism.

As well, the summit has helped Namibia, the host country, in discovering young tourism talents across the three years it hosted African youth entrepreneurs.

This year, Namibia’s Rosalia Haufiku Laudika, a student of NUST, Namibia; Sarah Anghuwo, founder, Africikoatizay, Namibia and Sarome Hamata, also a student of NUST, Namibia, emerged Top Finalists in the AYTIS 2024.

As ATP, the organisers celebrate yet another successful summit, Africa awaits a winner from the Top Five at the annual Africa Tourism Leadership Forum (ATLF) and Award later in the year.

Describing Africa as one of the most dynamic and diverse regions in the world and being the youngest continent globally, with 60% of its population under the age of 25, Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary General, UN Tourism, in his forward message at the summit, noted that Africa holds immense potential for tourism development and economic growth.

“Through our various initiatives and partnerships, UN Tourism is dedicated to promoting sustainable tourism practices, fostering economic empowerment, and preserving Africa’s rich cultural and natural heritage,” the UN Tourism Secretary General said.

Expressing his excitement to be honoured at the 6th summit and the professionalism Kwakye Donkor and his team bring to bear in the organising the event, Pololikashvili declared that, “This summit serves as a testament to the transformative power of youth engagement and innovation, both of which are integral to UN Tourism’s vision for the future of tourism in Africa”.

Also speaking at the summit on the UN Tourism platform, Elcia Grandcourt, Director, Africa Department UN Tourism, noted that the summit exemplifies the commitment and vision of the organisers in fostering the growth and development of Africa’s tourism sector.

“The AYTIS serves as a vital platform for spotlighting key priorities that are crucial for the advancement of the African region. From education and youth empowerment to digital transformation and attracting Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs), these are fundamental areas that resonate deeply with the vision of UN Tourism and the UN Tourism Agenda for Africa – Tourism for Inclusive Growth,” Grandcourt said.

According to her, investing in and capacitating future generations is paramount for paving the way forward in the evolution of tourism.

“As the youngest continent in the world, Africa’s youth will play a pivotal role in transforming the tourism sector and serving as ambassadors for Brand Africa. UN Tourism is fully committed to supporting these efforts,” she concluded.

But the most excited in the successful 3rd edition of AYTIS is Namibia, the host country. Pohamba Penomwenyo Shifeta, MP, Minister of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, Namibia, couldn’t hide the excitement, while describing the African Youth Summit as a platform for young people to explore and develop actionable solutions that will shape the future of Africa’s tourism sector.

“In the context of travel tech and tourism innovation, as the Ministry we stand on the brink of an era filled with boundless opportunities by providing the necessary support, insights and actionable solutions that can drive forward the Namibia tourism sector.

“The Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism under my leadership has successfully and proudly hosted the last three editions of this auspicious event which aims to empower the African youth in tourism with the necessary skills as we move toward the 5th industrial revolution,” the minister said at the summit, while urging Namibian and African youth to take space in the tourism sector especially technological innovation and embrace the continental trade initiative.

Toeing the same line at the summit, Deputy Minister of Sport, Youth and National Service, Emma Kantema-Gaomas, reiterated the government’s commitment to empowering young people in the tourism and hospitality industry.

“This gathering is testament to the dedication of the government of Namibia through the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism and various partners that investment in youth is both a moral imperative and an economic necessity,” Kantema-Gaomas said.

She noted further that tourism is a crucial sector for Africa, offering significant opportunities for economic growth, cultural exchange and sustainable development; hence the summit aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on decent work and economic growth, as well as goals focused on innovation and infrastructure development.

The Deputy Minister also acknowledged the challenges faced by youth in tourism, such as access to industry education, training and resources.

The focus on youth leadership, according to her, reflects a growing recognition of the immense potential young Africans hold and by equipping them with the tools and resources they need to succeed, she believes that the summit can play a crucial role in shaping a more prosperous and sustainable future for African tourism.

“Let’s all remember that our collective efforts today will shape the future we desire. Let’s commit to taking bold steps and drive sustainable change. Our journey does not end here. It is only the beginning,” the deputy minister urged at the 6th AYTIS in Windhoek,” Kantema-Gaomas urged.

From a partner’s perspective, Christelle Grohmann, Director, BDO Advisory Services, South Africa, commended the role that African youth play across the tourism value chain.

She described youth as tourists of today and tomorrow, current and future employees, hence the need to foster good work environments that attracts and retains youth in the industry, creating opportunities for young entrepreneurs to enter and succeed and become established operators and stakeholders that will operate responsibly to leave a sound industry to be proud of in the future.

BDO, according to her, enjoyed a robust dialogue and sound outcomes across all the touchpoints during the 2024 summit.

Finally and not the least, the Africa Tourism Partners (ATP) team led by Kwakye Donkor, as the CEO, was grateful that its commitment and efforts over the year to push tourism to the frontrunner in Africa is yielding sustainable fruits, and most importantly, it has witnessed more youth entrepreneurs in the tourism landscape.

In his message at the summit, Kwakye Donkor, CEO, ATP, the organisers of the summit, took count of what it has achieved in the last five years since its inception in Durban.

“In line with this imperative, ATP is pleased to announce that in collaborations with its lead partners including UN Tourism, BTO, MILLVEST and AfCFTA, the summit has connected and brought together over 2500 African youth and over 500 tourism and affiliated industry professionals and policymaker from over 40 countries, physically or virtually, since inception in Durban, in 2019.

“Key to these was a very successful hosting of the Summit in 2022 in Windhoek, Namibia, by the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism in collaboration with UN Tourism which attracted over 650 physical and 2000 virtual delegates,” Donkor said.

He maintained that the goal of the summit has been consistently achieved since inception as ATP and its network of partners have developed the specialised youth in tourism marketplace to assist tourism start-ups, entrepreneurs, small businesses, and young people in tourism. “The purpose is for attendees to interact, engage, conduct business, share expertise, and encourage one another through creativity.

Our one-on-one career advising and development clinic, led by experienced and renowned professionals, academics, policymakers, and experts, is critical to achieving this. “This has also created several economic prospects for youngsters in tourism through innovation such as mentorship, coaching, the formation of value-based business partnerships, and government backing,” the ATP boss said.

To further the goals, he noted further that ATP, UN Tourism, and the Ministry of Environment, Forestry, and Environment have established the Africa Tourism Innovation Hub, which was launched during this year’s summit.

“We need everyone on board to make this effort a success across the continent, and we want to encourage venture capitalists, investors, and more entrepreneurs to respond to our appeal. This is especially true in terms of knowledge, investment for young start-ups and small businesses, and redefining ourselves by contributing to the reduction of youth unemployment in Africa,” he concluded.