Profit-making idea: Training young Ethiopians for the hospitality industry

Berhane Abraha, CEO of Majestic Furniture in Addis Ababa, has his eye on the country’s hospitality industry as a market for his business which supplies bespoke locally manufactured furniture. He also sees another opportunity linked to hospitality that is still untapped: addressing the skills shortage that leads to poor service levels.

In 2018, the hospitality sector in Ethiopia grew at 48.6% – the fastest in the world, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. Despite the impact of Covid-19, a 2020 JLL report indicates that the country’s anticipated economic growth will positively impact corporate demand for hotel accommodation in the next few years. Ethiopia currently has more than 21 internationally-branded hotels under development, which could add up to 4,300 rooms.

To fill these hotels and other hospitality establishments, such as restaurants, with skilled staff, could be a potentially lucrative business opportunity, says Berhane.

“If you go to our neighbouring country, Kenya, and you visit a restaurant, you will find the best cooks, the best service. Here in Ethiopia, our service levels should improve,” he says.

While there are already training facilities in the country, Berhane believes more can be done to bring in trainers to assist in skilling young Ethiopians for top quality hospitality service.

It is a tactic that Berhane has employed in his own business, having brought in Italian experts to train Majestic Furniture’s employees on the correct techniques for painting and finishing the furniture pieces the company manufactures. He also has skilled carpenters and workers from India and the Philippines on the factory floor to train local staff on an ongoing basis.

Berhane references Kaldi’s Coffee, a coffee shop chain in the country, as an example of a food and restaurant businesses which has done a lot of work to provide in-house training for its staff.

“Ethiopia is a big country, and we have a lot of resources. Natural resources, yes, but also with a young, educated population where only a little skill needs to be added,” says Berhane.