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Building Human Capital in Tourism: Rwanda’s Road to Excellence in Hospitality Services

Rwanda has truly been grabbing investors’, professionals’ and generally curious crowd’s attention for some time now. After all, ranking the 9th safest country in the world (2017) and simultaneously being located in sub-Saharan Africa is perhaps one of the best eye-catching introductions any country could aspire for. This noteworthy fact, however, is not where Rwanda’s accolades come to an end.

General outlook

Besides being one of the safest places on the planet, Rwanda is also ranked #1 in terms of government transparency in Africa, while simultaneously taking the impressive second place in GDP growth and FDI to GDP ratio across the continent. As if that was not remarkable enough, the country comes forth in the global gender equality rating and 29th worldwide in terms of the ease of doing business. Phew! The list could certainly be extended but we believe the reader has already gotten the gist.

With a recognition like this, the tourism industry must also be reaping the fruits – and it certainly is. Back in the pre-COVID-19 era Rwanda’s tourism sector was the largest resource of foreign exchange earnings and was forecasted to grow at a rate of 25% per year. Apart from that, the International Congress and Convention Association named it the third in Africa in terms of MICE sector – the country hosted over 180 international events in 2018 and is not planning on scaling the effort down.

The challenges

Nevertheless, perfection, especially in the tourism sector, does not exist, and Rwanda, just as any other country, is not immune to obstacles, one of which is subpar human capacity. With the service ratings lacking far behind the majority of other metrics, the government started paying attention to the issue at hand and seems to have arrived to a possible solution.

On May 7th 2020 a new PPP among the Rwanda Development Board, Mastercard Foundation and Education First was announced. The partnership aims to train current hospitality workers in English, soft skills and industry-related knowledge, with a target of 2,000 employees by the end of the first year and a possible scale-up to 30,000 in the future. Training is to be provided online via FE virtual business school and to target those actively involved in the operational work in the sector. According to the deputy CEO of the Rwanda Development Board, Zephanie Niyonkuru, human capital development is one of the major targets of Rwanda Vision 2050, the government’s strategic program. Given the excellent past record of rapid progress, the success of the partnership seems to be imminent.

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