Negative perceptions about the hospitality and tourism sector, struggles to find opportunities to gain practical skills and the prevailing deficiency of employable skills, are some of the key challenges that hinder young people from joining the hospitality sector.
This is according to a new youth-led report, which was released this week in Kigali by the Restless Foundation and Mastercard Foundation Youth Think Tank (YTT).
With more than a billion young people expected to join the global labour market over the next decade, policymakers view hospitality and tourism as key drivers of job opportunities in Africa.
However, according to the report, perceptions regarding the sector need to shift if African countries hope to unlock the sector’s full economic potential.
The study was conducted in Rwanda, Malawi, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Zambia.
It particularly indicates that some young people have negative perceptions about the hospitality and tourism sector and are unable to see its potential for income generation and career growth.
The report also points out the struggle that young people go through to find opportunities to gain practical experience prior to entering the job market.
“These opportunities are shared in an informal way. Young people get to know about them through their friends and colleagues. We think they should access those opportunities not because they have friends who work there or other connections but in a formal way,” said Peace Aradukunda, Researcher at a Kigali based Youth Think-Tank.
It also shows that employers continue to find it hard to retain young employees as most of them don’t possess employable skills like work ethics, positive attitude, and interpersonal skills.
“Through our interactions with young people, we found out that there was a skills gap between what employers needed and what young employees brought to the labour market. This affected the employability of the young people in the hospitality sector,” said Charles Mankhwazi, a researcher from Malawi.
About lack of practical skills that make it harder for young people to be retained, Mankhwazi blamed it on training institutions that don’t equip students with labour market skills.
To improve the sector, the research recommends that governments must prioritise youth engagement and sector development by providing resources that help youth to shape the agenda and sector policy.
It also emphasises the need for better collaboration among sector stakeholders – government, private sector employers, training institutions, young people, donors, and NGOs with an interest in the sector.
Mastercard Foundation country representative to Rwanda, Alemayehu Konde Koira, noted that the findings about how youth perceive the hospitality and tourism sector provide valuable insight into how the Foundation can design and implement its programmes on the continent.
“This study follows another one that youth conducted and this has helped us design our strategy. Young people are really at the centre of our programmes and we believe this is very important,” he said.
The strategy that Koira referred to is the ‘Young Africa Works’ agenda, an initiative that seeks to support 30 million young people in Africa until 2030.