By Ayana Jones
A young entrepreneur is seeking to make inroads in Africa’s burgeoning travel industry.
Tapiwa Kingsley Ndlovu is the co-founder and CEO of Kumba Africa, an online travel agency that offers travelers authentic experiences — tours and hikes with local guides, safaris, home stays — across the continent.
Ndlovu decided to start the platform after he spent six months in Stellenbosch University’s LaunchLab incubator program in South Africa. He visited the country in 2017 while working on his first business venture, Kasoma Africa, a now defunct website where people read, wrote and shared their African stories.
“I wanted to be locally immersed in the culture,” Ndlovu said, reflecting on his time in Cape Town, South Africa.
Ndlovu encountered issues when he sought to experience Cape Town in a local, authentic way and reflected on what it must be like for people traveling to Africa from the United States or other countries.
“So I then decided to build a platform where we aim to connect travelers to authentic travel experiences across Africa … with the twist that whenever someone books something on our platform, whatever they book has some sort of authentic feel to it — whether it’s interacting with a local, having a homemade dinner — something besides just going to a famous landmark,” said Ndlovu, who is 25 and now lives in Philadelphia.
Ndlovu incorporated his company in May and graduated from Drexel University with a dual degree in chemical engineering around the same time.
The company’s name is a nod to Ndlovu’s native land of Zimbabwe. Kumba means “home” in the country’s Shona language.
“We want to make sure that people feel like Africa is home for them and that’s why we named it Kumba Africa,” Ndlovu explained.
Ndlovu is tapping into the travel sector at a time when Africa’s tourism industry is poised for significant growth. Tourism is expected to contribute $269 billion to the continent and create 29 million new jobs by 2026, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.
Ndlovu often travels throughout Africa to build partnerships with hotels, tour guides, tour operators and other key suppliers. So far, he has partnered with more than 180 local tour guides and tour operating companies in 14 African countries — Botswana, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The Kumba Africa site features numerous listings, including culinary tours, desert rides, trail hikes, traditional dance classes, tours of historical sites and wine tastings.
The site has been in a beta testing phase for the past year. The marketplace (www.kumbafrica.co) officially launches next week with the rollout of a new Android application.
“We wanted to make sure that we had both the web and the Android mobile app working before we said to the world here we are, but people know about us and have been using our product,” Ndlovu said.
“We want to be the number one travel company in Africa.”
This article originally appeared in The Philadelphia Tribune.