Charles Shima Kishi, founder, ZaNiheza

ZaNiheza; A Tech-Travel Startup building AI To Promote African Tourism


Feb. 28, 2022, 2:52 p.m.

A travel-tech startup has been launched in Rwanda. Called ZaNiheza, the startup is building an AI-powered travel platform that seeks to empower local tour operators and create immersive, fun and knowledgeable experiences for tourists. According to the founder Charles Shima Kishi, ZaNiheza is a combination of three words in Kinyarwanda: "murakaza neza" and "niheza", which translates to "Welcome, it's beautiful."

Born in DR Congo, lived in Rwanda, and now a diasporan in Vancouver, Canada, Charles softly launched the company in 2020 when he returned to Rwanda after 24 years. Upon his arrival, he noticed how beautifully Rwanda had transformed and sought to build a platform that focused on the country's rich culture, scenery and local operators. He also noticed that most local operators had not digitised their services, impacting online visibility and revenue in the travel sector, aside from the pandemic. That was when the lightbulb lit.

"I love technology, and I love to travel. I am fortunate to have been exposed to technology at an early age. When my father bought his first computer in 1988, He told me that the computer would change how we lived. That statement lived with me and has been a propeller for this company. When I arrived, I noticed many local operators had websites, but they were still not active online in that they did not have booking software or a proper itinerary structure."

"We are a game-changer because we have a marketplace and proprietary booking software. However, this is our MVP, and we look forward to launching the beta version on Women's Day. The new system will be user-friendly, fast, and have an incredible searchable database," Charles told DT Africa.

ZaNiheza was initially launched in 2020 to explore the market and find a market-fit size for the product. Then in December 2021, Charles released the MVP product. According to the founder, the platform was built with African solutions to address African challenges and create visibility for local operators.

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With two sides to the platform, experience curators(local operators or hosts) have the opportunity to post their respective tour packages and pictures, and travellers get to explore different countries and cultures with packages tailored to meet their needs. "This makes an AI tool on our platform relevant. ZaNiheza has onboarded 20 local operators from Ghana, DR Congo, Namibia, Tanzania and Rwanda.

Furthermore, ZaNiheza has new and inventive products in tourism. For example, they have the 'Kigali Yacu Hiking Edition" that teaches the history of Mont Rebero and "Nkumbuye Iwacu Experience" for the Diaspora people who are looking to reconnect with their roots or discover Rwanda. We also offer "Umwami Experience", a look into our pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial history."

The platform also has a souvenir store called the ZaniStore to allow tourists to purchase African merchandise. Per this, the startup has partnered with local fashion stores, musicians etc. and looks forward to launching the ZaNiheza App.

In addition to promoting domestic tourism, ZaNiheza is committed to contributing to 3 sustainable development goals: "Gender equality, poverty and quality education". As such, Charles focuses on youth and women empowerment. His company employs youth and women, whom they equip with development skills in content creation, application systems and business. They offer internship placements and seminars on several topics, such as emotional intelligence, customer service, and sales.

"For our plans, we aim to build a SaaS product that can be used in over 20 African countries and allows local tour operators to integrate into their platforms. We will also have a metaverse system, and I'm looking forward to that," the founder mentioned.

Charles urged African startups to collaborate and build a tech space that fosters and spreads collaboration for his last words. He also encouraged companies to invite tech illiterates and equip them with the necessary skills needed for this era.


tag: Africa, tourism, technology, Startup, Artificial Intelligence,


Verny Joy Author

Verny loves to write poetry, fiction and quotes. Her love for writing landed her in journalism. She loves gadgets and travelling to explore new places.