Zainab Omar Moh’d is 28 years old. She was born in a tropical paradise called Pemba, known locally as The Green Island, which forms part of the Zanzibar Archipelago. It’s more isolated from the main tourist destinations, but that just meant that Zainab was even more enchanted by her encounters with English- and Spanish-speaking tourists. They sparked her interest and curiosity about life beyond the island.“I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to work at a five-star hotel while still studying.”
Today, she is happily studying and working in the tourism and hospitality industry.
History of tourism and hospitality in TanzaniaIn 2017, the total contribution of tourism to Tanzania’s GDP was 9%, and is expected to reach 10.1% in 2028. The country’s national and marine parks, highlands, and coastal and lake areas make it a highly sought-after vacation destination, with lots of potential for further development in sustainable tourism practices.
Globally, tourism contributes to job creation and fuels growth through micro-, small and medium enterprises. However, in Tanzania, decent work challenges like poor working conditions and low skills levels persist.
That’s why the ILO and Norway teamed up to launch the project SKILL-UP Tanzania, which aimed to improve the country’s TVET system. A stronger TVET system means improved productivity, competitiveness, economic development, and jobs creation. Practically, it means more young Tanzanians will have better livelihood opportunities.
The project was launched in 2018 and is now in its second phase. It is a part of the ILO Global Programme on Skills and Lifelong Learning.
The apprenticeship programme targets young Tanzanians from low-income backgrounds. They are recruited to take part in the two-year apprenticeship programme, implemented in collaboration with the government, which includes six months of theory and 18 months of practical training. Apprentices select a specialization track, such as front desk management, in the second year of the programme. People that complete the programme receive an official certification of their skills.
A national tripartite steering committee is poised to take over operations upon completion of the project, ensuring sustainability and continuity.
Zainab’s daily life
"I would not be able to pursue my diploma if not for the apprenticeship programme, which will award me a National Technical Award level 5 certificate. I will graduate with a level 6 certificate at the end of 2022."
Zainab counts herself as one of those lucky young Tanzanians with renewed hope for the future, thanks to the apprenticeship training programme. Today, she lives with her older sister on the main island, in a small neighborhood called Kibweni.
In the mornings, she wakes up around 5 a.m., starting her day with tea before her first classes. She studies at the State University of Zanzibar, at the Institute of Tourism, working towards her diploma. She takes a small bus called a dala dala to get there.
Her new lifestyle is possible thanks to SKILL-UP, which helped her complete an apprenticeship in hospitality training.
Zainab’s childhoodAs a child, Zainab loved school. She wanted to dress up in the standard school uniform before she was old enough to go to first grade.
"I remember being so happy when my parents finally relented and bought me a small uniform to wear even though I was still too young to start with Standard 1. I just always wanted to learn."
Tourists fascinated Zainab. She would see them around her island and was always interested in who they were and where they came from. Of course, her family didn’t have the money to support her training in that field, but her sense of wonder and curiosity remained.
"I have always been interested in working in the tourism industry. I love problem solving and meeting people from different cultures."
She was in high school when, in 2009, she lost her father in a boat accident. He was the family breadwinner and her number-one supporter. It was a troubling time for Zainab and her family, both emotionally and financially, though her mother tried her best to hold the family together.
"My father was a businessman and always tried to support other businesses in the community. Many of his friends came to our aid during the most difficult times, including paying for school fees."
Zainab remains close with her family, especially her mother and sister.
Zainab and the hospitality apprenticeship programme
In 2019, Zainab jumped at the opportunity to participate in the apprenticeship programme in hospitality.
At the time, she was on the brink of giving up on education and employment. She spent her days at home, helping her mother take care of her younger siblings. Despite the distractions, a distant dream of working in hospitality lay dormant in the back of her mind.
Zainab learned about the programme from her friends, who had seen advertisements and, knowing about her interest in working in tourism, urged her to apply. She decided to specialize in the front office department and, along the way, acquired many new skills, met lots of people, and gained a new sense of confidence.
"Through meeting so many different types of people and with different temperaments and personalities, I learned that it's important to maintain my calmness and professionalism. Now, I can handle a wide range of situations."
She appreciated both the theoretical and the practical parts of the classes. She enjoyed rotating through different departments, from housekeeping to food and beverage production, which allowed her to get a full overview of her options before choosing her speciality.
In the end, for her, it was all about the conversations with people and the general unpredictability of the front desk. She loved it.
My industry training at the Park Hyatt in Stone Town gave the best hands-on experience I could get.
Zainab and her dream job
"I love working in the front office. I love interacting with people. Every day is different at the front desk."
Upon completion of the training as part of SKILL-UP, Zainab received several job offers at some of the best hotels and resorts in Zanzibar. However, she could not accept due to their distance from the State University of Zanzibar, where she is working toward her diploma in hotel management. She believed obtaining the diploma would help her career in the long-run.
She asked a family friend for financial assistance for her school fees, which she plans to pay back once she starts working.
One thing that bothers Zainab is the social stigma against women working in tourism. Locals tend to believe that women are involved in prostitution. She wants to change that.
"I try to be an active member of my community and set a good example for women working in the tourism sector by sharing the hospitality ethics of honesty and respect."
One day, she hopes to reach the manager level, because she knows that she has the skills and potential to become a good team leader. She just needs the opportunity. For now, she will continue to lean on her support network – her family – and her fellow apprentices for motivation.
"We have a WhatsApp group where we share ideas, jokes, and job offers. We keep each other motivated. Although the island has seen a reduction in tourism due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Zainab is hopeful for the hotel industry to bounce back quickly. Her dream is to work in the tourism industry in different countries, to be always discovering new things and indulging her innate curiosity in the world. The thing that helped me keep a positive mindset is my love of learning, even when things got very rough and especially after losing my father. I think he would be proud to see that I have not given up on our dreams."