RICA RWIGAMBA: The Cornell program has been part of a Hanga Ahazaza initiative, which is an initiative that was started in 2018 with the goal to enable 30,000 young people, especially young women to the program, into work opportunities in the tourism and hospitality sector. Over the last very few years-- I would say it's quite recent that we now have five-star establishments, whether you're looking at the Radisson the Marriott or even Serena. That has been in the market for a little longer. What was happening is that, especially at the supervisory level or managerial level, we depend on a lot from non-Rwandans coming to the market.
And it was also difficult for the young Rwandans who were in the industry to actually acquire the skills to enable them to actually grow into managerial positions. And with the work we've done with Cornell, we've seen a lot of promotions coming out of it and sometimes even just the confidence because in addition to the technical skills they may have acquired, we know that management is different. It's not just about being technically sound. But it's also about managing the team-- cross-learning. And I think that's one of the main things that really the Cornell program was able to do to upskill. And today, we have younger managers-- Rwandans that we're able to see in different places.
KIM SZPIRO: The Cornell Nolan School of Hotel Administration was founded in 1922-- so 100 years ago. Just let that sink in. It was the world's first four-year intercollegiate school dedicated to hospitality management. We took the time to survey the graduates of the Hanga Ahazaza initiative in the Cornell program. And what we found was our graduates not only had an increased confidence in their own roles. But they were taking the knowledge that they had to their supervisors and to their mentees and enriching their experience in the industry and in their businesses.
EVELYN KAHINJU KARAMAGI: At the beginning or the onset of the program, there's a sense of inadequacy. There's this illiteracy. There's a lack of confidence in managing or handling-- navigating an online program. But the advantage of our program with Cornell University is that we have too two main instructors on the ground and myself as a program manager. That has actually opened up doors for the students to call in. We meet with them. We actually walk them through how to navigate the program. And by the end of the program, it's perfect. They're running through their coursework-- extremely confident as well, which is a huge advantage. The advantage really is about having people on the ground to walk them through any misgivings or lack of confidence in navigating the program.
YVONNE MAKOLO: Given the fact that Rwanda has put a lot of focus on tourism-- on the services industry-- I think it's really, really important to get all the frontline staff really upskilled in that. So the program, I believe, for a lot of people in the hospitality industry, in hotels, in the airline as well-- it's really brought us up to-- international standards in terms of service delivery, which Rwanda needs to be at that level in order to compete effectively.
ROB KUCERA: The program contributed a huge amount to the hospitality industry within Kigali and within the country-- more so that it uplifted the standard of service, the standard of knowledge. And once you have the knowledge, the practical side of it comes a lot easier. More importantly, from the students point of view, it's got them to think differently and also improve themselves. And now they want to do more courses through Cornell. And they want to improve and improve their career. And I think that is the most important.
DANIEL SAMBAI: You never reach a stage where you say, now you know it all. There's always room for improvement. So I always like-- if there's anything that I can benefit from, I go for it in terms of improving my knowledge and skills. So Cornell being an institution that is globally renowned in terms of hospitality training, obviously, when this course came in, I was excited at the opportunity that my staff were going to get. We're going to get to be able to improve. So, as a way of encouraging them and teaching them, I felt like, initially, the uptake was a bit slow. And so we needed to try and motivate them to keep taking it and to encourage them why it's important to take these courses. And when I was giving them and telling them, by the way, please note, I will also be taking this course. And you could see certainly more getting interested in the course.
MATHIAS WIDOR: I myself-- I did a master's certificate in the field of hospitality and just recently finished a finance 360 course with Cornell. Our associates who mastered this program over the last couple of years gained world-class knowledge in hospitality and tourism. So they will be able to grow their careers not only domestically but internationally as well. And it opens future doors and additional doors for them.
PATRICK NIYITEGEKA: Before joining the hospitality industry, I didn't have knowledge about the hotel operations. And I got the chance to join Cornell University. Through Hanga Ahazaza program, I was able to identify how hotel operations work. And within the courses that I got, I was able to identify hotel operations management and also revenue management and also marketing.
ROSE MUNGWASINGIZWE: My name is Mungwasingizwe Rose. And the reason why I joined Cornell-- it's because I am a new business entrepreneur. And I wanted to gain some skills on how I can manage the business-- how I can deal with everything. What I really liked with Hanga Ahazaza program-- it's the skills that I got from there which has helped me to sustain my business.
NICE UWASE: It was an amazing course. I happened to pursue it during the period when it was the pandemic. And I was doing it online, which was very feasible and practical for most people who are not necessarily involved in so many activities in the hospitality industry. Personally, I think it was fantastic in the way that it contributed to knowing the knowledge behind what I've been practicing for the last 10 years. So I encourage everyone. I would encourage everyone to look into it. I would encourage everyone to give it the value that it deserves. And also, all the people who have completed the courses-- to try and make the difference that we have already learned from from the content of the course.
FRANK GISHA: I would describe it-- the program itself-- as a comprehensive program but also well-rounded to the extent that it has touched various segments of the sector. Here you're talking about tourism-- the tour and travel industry. You're talking about hospitality, where our hotel managers and supervisors have really benefited a lot from these-- and also cutting across as well our other value chain players-- aviation. But again, also, we have another very important segment in tourism-- the Safari guides, actually. Mostly they stay, or they are in touch with our guests for more hours. And Cornell did not forget about these guys.
So that's why I described it as well-rounded and very comprehensive to the extent that we see it as a complete one. And again, one would even-- we're talking about 1,300 trained in the past, say, four or five years. And, as I mentioned in the start, one would wish very much that-- I wish we would have up to 50,000. And I know Cornell has the capacity with the support of the Mastercard Foundation and us as Chamber of Tourism. Building stronger those synergies, I believe we can get there-- having these guys-- I mean Cornell University-- in the next five years or more. I have to believe that we will even achieve more together.
KIM SZPIRO: I'd like to thank the Mastercard Foundation and the Rwanda Development Board for providing us the opportunity through the Hanga Ahazaza initiative to reach so many deserving youth.
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In this video recorded in November 2022, Cornell Hanga Ahazaza director Kim Szpiro and
Rwandan partners describe the benefits of the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business’s engagement in Rwanda with MasterCard Foundation.