- Next month your first camp, Zambezi Sands River Lodge, under your hospitality company Batoka Hospitality will open in Zimbabwe, making you the first African woman to own a safari camp in Africa. What was your motivation for taking this step?
My motivation was seeing the need in transforming the way African hospitality is viewed and showcasing all that we have to offer. Batoka Hospitality has been created first and foremost as a catalyst of transformation in rural communities in Africa. Ownership plays a big role in motivating me to launch my own hospitality company. There have been a lot of international companies coming to Africa and building incredible properties. However, there haven’t been as many local companies, so there has been a huge gap in local ownership. I strongly believe in foreign investment, but I also believe in our people owning their story, owning their resources and owning their future.
- What is your vision for Batoka Hospitality?
My vision is to turn Batoka Hospitality into game changers in Africa, by redefining African travel, tourism and hospitality. We will be working on transforming the narrative around the continent and creating opportunities for African people by providing local communities with the opportunity to create sustainable livelihoods, and eventually paving the way for local economic growth. There’s so much more to Africa, including its incredible natural resources and wildlife, the continent’s history and culture. Through Batoka Hospitality, I want to bring positive change to Africa by preserving and empowering the surrounding communities, and showcasing all the continent has to offer whilst ensuring the locals are simultaneously benefiting from the results.
- Tell us a little bit more about how you are integrating the local communities into your hospitality company.
I advocate hiring locally and a majority of the staff at Zambezi Sands were recruited from neighbouring communities. We have hired formal trainers to train our team and ensure they are able to provide guests with the same experience they’d receive at a luxury property anywhere else in the world, including computer literacy. We could have opted for hiring staff that already have these skills, which is a less expensive option, however I find this approach far more valuable and impactful to the communities. By hiring locally, we are able to provide the locals with a livelihood and lifelong skills that will benefit them and their families. In addition, we will be setting up the Tesse Fund, through which 10% of revenue made from each guest stay will go straight into the fund. This fund will be allocated to staff members within the Batoka Hospitality family, and staff will be encouraged to propose projects that will benefit their local community.
- You were born in Zimbabwe; tell us about your childhood and how it has impacted on your decision to start Batoka Hospitality.
Yes, I was born in Zimbabwe however, moved to South Africa at age 5. And then to the United Kingdom at age 14. Living outside of Africa is what inspired me to do what I am doing today. When you are a foreigner as a teenager, you are actually forced to find your identity and understand what it is. For me, it meant exploring what it means to be African, and in my case, what responsibility (if any) I had to Africa having moved away from the continent. I realised as I got older that I want to see African countries have the same and better levels of development and standards of living as I was seeing in London. And this is essentially where the driving force behind Batoka Hospitality began.
- What’s next after Zambezi Sands River Lodge?
We have an upcoming project near Victoria Falls as well, the four-star Batoka Gorges and Little Lodge, which will be an adventure and wellness lodge targeting the younger travellers who are more interested in cultural immersion.
- You now spend your time between Africa and London, how has this impacted on your vision to transform the narrative around Africa?
I find travel to be a source of inspiration. Even on a smaller scale when we were developing certain things for Zambezi Sands, they were inspired by what I was seeing and learning from my travels. I believe spending time between London and Southern Africa has only fueled the fire in me to be a part of the transformation of the African continent.
- You were recently voted No. 2 in Tatler’s Best dressed List for 2022, after the Duchess of Cambridge; what does fashion mean to you and how would you describe your own personal style?
Tatler hit the nail on the head, I absolutely love glamour. I love dressing up, finding special pieces and expressing myself through clothing. This is how I have always been. At the moment, my style is what I am using to communicate my life’s mission and what I believe is my purpose: creating opportunities for my fellow Africans. So I look for statement pieces by African designers, and then accessorise those with more mainstream brands. I love colour and being over the top. I am not huge on jewellery but I almost can never leave home without a hair accessory. Ultimately, I want people to look at what I am wearing, and to want those pieces. Then I want them to be pleasantly surprised by the skill and creativity of African designers when they realise those are who made what I am wearing.