Twenty-eight-year-old Vimbai Masiyiwa is the executive director of Batoka Hospitality, the first black, female-owned safari lodge group in Africa.
She co-founded the company with her mother Tsitsi Masiyiwa. Their project, Zambezi Sands River Lodge, a safari lodge nestled on the western end of the Zambezi National Park and about an hour from Victoria Falls, due to open in June, is a luxurious testament to community-led initiatives centred about women empowerment.
Batoka Hospitality is a luxury eco-tourism and community development group.
“At the moment, just about 40% of our staff are women… in the organisation, we have paths to leadership and also, we support women-led projects. We’re working with a member of our staff, she leads a women-led initiative sewing club in Zimbabwe.
“Our work with her is in looking for opportunities for women to sell their sewing products beyond Chisingwe village, beyond Victoria Falls and into retail and then we’re looking at [business] mentorship.”
Masiyiwa and her mother decided to get more involved in the hospitality side of the family business portfolio. For those who might not know, Vimbai is the second-born daughter of Zimbabwean billionaire businessman Strive Masiyiwa.
She has worked with her father for some years, starting off as an intern at the age of 14, throughout her university years and working as a special assistant for him until almost two years ago, when she fully stepped into her role at Batoka.
Her dad has always been open and generous with all he’s learnt in business; he would update his Facebook page with lessons for all to learn from.
From those lessons Vimbai and her siblings were also able to ask follow-up questions. She says she’s learnt from her dad to be a great listener, and says her father always hears people out and then says his piece.
“I used to jump into saying what it is I wanted, being very straightforward but as I’ve grown over the last few years I’ve really mirrored exactly what I see him do.
I’m sure if you put us in the same room and put screen between us and had someone talk to us we would look identical, I mirror everything … from how he sits to how he responds just because I’ve seen him grow in business over the years and I’ve seen what has worked.
I’m an observer and I learn by observing. I’m a bit of a copycat in that sense.”
Vimbai has lived in Zimbabwe, SA and the UK, and is currently based in the UK and US. She is no stranger to luxury as is testament in the décor of her lodge, which was started during the thick of the global coronavirus pandemic.
She is also known for her love of African designers, her fashion sense has seen her, alongside Kate Middleton, voted as one of 2022’s Best Dressed Woman by the UK’s Tatler magazine. She laments the lack of funding for African designers as this costs them opportunities to distribute their products to a global consumer base.