As Marriott International (NYSE: MAR) increases its presence in Africa more than six fold from eight to 50 hotels by 2020, it anticipates hiring nearly 10,000 employees, the majority of whom will be local residents. Committed to investing in communities where it builds hotels, Marriott is partnering with The Akilah Institute for Women (Akilah) to educate and train 15 young women in Rwanda to work in the hotel industry, and ultimately to help open the Kigali Marriott Hotel as supervisors in late 2013. [Check out scenes from the graduation ceremony.]
These young women are among the first 30 graduates from Akilah in Kigali to earn a business diploma with a focus in hospitality management. The young women are currently training and will intern for up to 12 months at Marriott hotels in Dubai and Doha. They will prepare for supervisory roles and build skills to assist in teaching approximately 250 other associates, most of whom will be members of the Rwandan community, at the Kigali Marriott.
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), young people – 15 to 24 years of age – are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults and over 75 million youth worldwide are looking for work. The challenges for disadvantaged youth in Africa are particularly great. “Akilah is helping to empower and educate young women in Rwanda,” says Elizabeth Dearborn Hughes, Akilah’s co-founder and chief executive officer. “Since being named one of the top ten tourism destinations, Rwanda’s tourism has increased by nearly 30 percent. With partners like Marriott, Akilah’s graduates will be poised for tremendous opportunity with hotel careers in Rwanda and throughout East Africa.”
Opened in January 2010, Akilah offers a two-year business diploma with a focus in hospitality management or entrepreneurship, which will be available in September. The unique Akilah model emphasizes leadership, communication and entrepreneurial skills. Akilah works closely with the local private sector to develop market-relevant curricula and to ensure job placement for graduates in the fastest growing sectors of the economy.
“Considering the high youth unemployment across Africa, we feel our partnership with Akilah is a real solution to help young people develop employment skills,” said Gary Dodds, Marriott International’s vice president of human resources for the Middle East & Africa. “Marriott believes our business should be aligned with what is most important to the communities where we operate, and believe this partnership will help make a positive impact in the lives of these young women in Rwanda who are the first to graduate from the Akilah Institute. As part of our commitment to young people in Africa, a partnership like that with Akilah is something we wish to consider at each of our hotel openings.”
The Kigali Marriott Hotel – owned by New Century Development Ltd. – will be Marriott’s first hotel in Sub-Saharan Africa and the largest hotel in Rwanda at 250 rooms.
Currently, in Africa, Marriott has eight properties in two countries, including The JW Marriott Hotel Cairo Mirage City in Egypt and the Renaissance Tlemcen in Algeria. In addition to the Kigali Marriott Hotel, the company has 50 hotels in the pipeline, 10 of which are in Sub-Saharan Africa, including the Courtyard by Marriott and Marriott Executive Apartment Addis Ababa in Ethiopia (2013), the Marriott Accra in Ghana (2014), The Ritz-Carlton Reserve Tamuda Bay in Morocco (2014), the Marriott Libreville in Gabon (2015) and the Marriott Contonou in Benin (2015).
“Africa is a key market for tourism development because of its increasing economic vitality,” said Alex Kyriakidis, president and managing director, the Middle East and Africa division of Marriott International. “This hotel represents the start of our aggressive growth plans in Sub-Saharan Africa where we are helping to stimulate the Rwandan travel industry and create jobs. Through our partnership with Akilah we will have skilled local talent who can fill employment positions at our hotel in Kigali and worldwide as they grow with Marriott.”
“We are proud to be the owners of the first Marriott hotel in Sub-Saharan Africa,” said Solomon Adede, deputy chief executive officer of New Century Development Ltd. “Even more so, we are thrilled at the chance to work with Marriott and Akilah as we create employment opportunities for young Rwandan nationals who can build promising careers within the growing travel and tourism industry in Africa.”
Globally, Marriott has addressed issues of youth unemployment on other continents including Europe, Asia, North and South America through a portfolio of partnerships called “World of Opportunity.” These programs include the Youth Career Initiative in Jordan, Egypt, Brazil, Mexico and Thailand, Fairbridge in the U.K. and Bridges from School to Work in the U.S. The ILO estimates the youth unemployment rate in North Africa to be 27.9 percent and 11.5 percent in sub-Saharan Africa – a rate unchanged since 2005.