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Start-ups & Entrepreneurs

Egyptian Switcher exchanges best practices in SWITCH Africa Green´s regional meeting on sustainable tourism

The SwitchMed Programme partners with sister organisations such as SWITCH Africa Green to provide support for its green entrepreneurs and Switchers to attend events that bring together investors, entrepreneurs and industry experts. Founder and managing director of Amaken trips, Yousra Mounir, tells us her main take-aways from attending Switch Africa Green´s regional meeting on Sustainable Tourism last 29-30 October 2019 in Rwanda.

Yousra Mounir, one of SwitchMed programme's Egyptian Switcher founded Amaken trips, an initiative touring the entirety of Egypt in 2013. The concept of her touring project is revolving around the desire to sustainably help develop her destinations. Check out her story here.

Yousra first came across Switch Africa’s regional meeting through the Switchers Facebook page. She confessed that when she saw that the Switchers support Programme was providing support for green entrepreneurs to attend the workshop of SWITCH Africa Green on the sustainable tourism sector, she felt it calling her.

Then she got an email notifying her of being selected, where the EU-funded SWITCH Africa Green Programme provided her a ticket to Kigali to meet peers entrepreneurs and learn from each other’s experience!

“I always dreamed to attend Ecotourism meetings, and to learn more about ecotourism as this what I am doing in my life and I want to do it in a right and sustained way. I was very excited to be part of the workshop.?

In fact, the main objective of this workshop is to consolidate and share the knowledge generated by SWITCH Africa Green in the sustainable tourism sector and to promote the scale-up and replication of best practices identified.

The workshop is funded by the European Union through the SWITCH Africa Green Programme and jointly organised by the Rwanda Environmental Management Agency (REMA); the Rwanda Cleaner Production and Climate Innovation Centre (CPCIC); United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), the SWITCH to Green Facility of the European Commission, and National focal points in the SWITCH Africa Green participating countries.

“This meeting is a concrete illustration that EuropeanUnion and Africa can partner to boost economic opportunities while contributing to environmental sustainability? said Ambassador Nicola Bellomo, Head of EU Delegation to Rwanda in his opening notes.

This vibrant workshop took place in Kigali and brought together investors, ecotourism startups and companies, and industry experts for a two-day exchange of knowledge and achievements sharing. The workshop included also roundtable discussions to come up with ideas and solution to creating an enabling environment for sustainable tourism in Africa. A practical training case was debated by the participants to help Virunga park with some ideas to be more sustainable and to reach more people to visit the park.

For Yousra, one of the most fascinating things that can happen to an entrepreneur is to meet another, or meet a like-minded expert from somewhere around the globe and share concrete examples.

“It was so dynamic and productive, people sharing stories and experience and their challenges. It introduced me to different projects and ideas which can help me in the future.
Besides the new insights I acquired in financial, policy and marketing aspects.?

During the panel discussion, Yousra showcased for example how she managed to increase the visibility of Amaken trips’ sustainable tourism packages through social media, advertising and holding beach clean ups and workshops.

Rwanda Environmental Management Authority (REMA)'s Deputy Director General, Faustin Munyazikwiye, emphasized the promotion of community based tourism, a key aspect of #sustainability. Through revenue sharing, 5% of all tourism revenues in Rwanda is sent directly to communities.

Many other interesting examples of good practices in green business and Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) practices were highlighted among participants for potential replication. Ecotourism actors discussed also how private sector enterprises have reaped benefits from implementation of sustainable consumption and production practices in terms of savings in efficient utilization of inputs, cost reduction, waste minimization as well as improved employee well-being.

The event was also beneficial for its networking opportunities. Yousra admitted that she ended up with few but very effective new contacts in her portofolio. In Fact, thanks to this event, she is now working on some partnership in Kenya, Uganda and South Africa.

A field visit to Virunga National Park was also carried out to facilitate learning from the Park experience on promoting sustainable tourism. For Yousra, it was the most enriching and emotional moment of the whole trip.

 “I was amazed with the field trip and I feel it’s my duty to help this park and local communities. This is what I am working on right now!

I have started an initiative called “No Ebola, Only magic in Congo? which you will probably hear about very soon? said Yousra after the field visit.

For our Egyptian Switcher, this opportunity to be part of such meeting was very enriching and she recommends it to all ecotourism peers:

“It’s so important to meet with other people working in the same field not only in your country but also in and around Africa to feel you aren’t alone. It will help you grow faster, open your heart, go out of the box and make a real change.?

Yousra Mounir Founder and Managing Director of Amaken Trips, providing sustainable tourism tours in Egypt. For more information: Linkedin .

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