Fourteen years ago, a young Vimbai Masiyiwa stepped into the shadows of her billionaire dad as an intern. Never the one to enjoy public limelight as most rich kids do, the second-born Masiyiwa sibling would quietly mirror the tricks of entrepreneurship in the back office of the telecoms mogul, alongside her elder sibling.
Vimbai would continue interning for her dad throughout university, getting “elevated” to the role of “Special Assistant” along the way.
It wasn’t until two years ago that she decided to step out of the shadows and hold her own fort, pursue her own dreams and put the nuggets of wisdom she had absorbed from her father over the years into practice.
Teaming up with her mother, Tsitsi, a dedicated philanthropist, they founded Batoka Hospitality, a luxury eco-tourism and community development group centered around local initiatives and women’s empowerment.
The Batoka project has been a life dream coming true for Vimbai, who holds the position of Executive Director in the group. Already, the group’s four- star Batoka Gorges and Little Lodge are being the talk of the bush in the beautiful Victoria Falls resort.
But the best of Batoka is yet to come. In June 2023, the group will celebrate the unveiling of its flagship facility, The Zambezi Sands River Lodge. Located in the western end of the Zambezi National Park, the safari lodge will be a cocoon of luxury in the heart of the wilderness. Each suite is designed to have a view of the majestic Zambezi River, the fourth longest river in Africa.
Harnessing local narratives to create a global brand.
Guided by the group’s founding objective of being a community led initiative, The Zambezi Sands River Lodge is sourcing all key materials and consumables localy, from the decor down to the tea.
The highly artistic Tsonga and Ndebele communities will inspire the decor narratives, shea butter products from R&R will be used in the hotel, and for the tea lovers, Vimbai has a treat for them. Teaming up with Petalilli Tea, a local tea grower, they have managed to create a special blend of fine tea incorporating local ingredients.
Being the first black, female-owned safari venture in Africa, Batoka Hospitality is an equal opportunity employer, with a deliberate bias towards women, of course.
“At the moment, just about 40% of our staff are women. We have paths to leadership and also, we support women-led initiatives”, Vimbai was recently quoted in a Forbes Africa interview.
If there’s anything more valuable than money she has already inherited from her father; it’s the ability to listen and understand people’s problems and concerns. She describes her father as a great listener, and fancies herself as an exact mirror replica of her dad in that sense.
Her father, Strive Masiyiwa, is a Zimbabwean businessman, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He founded Econet Wireless, the country’s biggest mobile network provider. He currently sits on many important boards, including Netflix, Unilever and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.