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Samuel Hakizimana “Unique You: promoting the African destination for a sustainable and inclusive development

Samuel Hakizimana, 27, is the co-founder of Unique You, the first Algerian-African startup working to promote the African destination. 

By Nadjoua Khelil in Algiers

We meet Samuel Hakizimana, 27, co-founder of Unique You, the first Algerian-African startup, and his team at the headquarters of Madagascar Embassy in Algiers. His team includes members of the African community in Algeria, especially Malagasy, and the ambassador of Madagascar, who supports them in their business. “Our role is to mobilize the diaspora in the country’s socio-economic development, through supporting young people in their projects and making the process easier, as an interface, “says Rafalimanana Jeannie Berthina, Ambassador of Madagascar in Algiers, and Minister Plenipotentiary chargée d’affaires a.i. This is in order to “revitalize, diversify bilateral Algerian-Malagasy relations, particularly through the promotion of tourism in both countries in the mutual interest,” she noted, recalling incidentally the “long-standing historical ties” between Algeria and Madagascar.   

« Why do young people prefer to go elsewhere, to Europe or Asia, rather than to Africa, while the latter is full of potential. For me, it was imperative to reverse this trend and give priority to our home, Africa. »

Young startupper, Samuel, a citizen of Burundi, discovered Algeria in 2018. After the baccalaureate exam that he passed brilliantly, as first laureate in his country in computer management. For this purpose, he received a scholarship to study in Algeria where he joined the University of Tizi-Ouzou to prepare a master’s degree in finance and accounting. 

Very ambitious, full of energy, he wants to see his country and the continent develop. The idea of revealing the beauty of Burundi and promoting its cultural and natural heritage as well as that of Africa was already close to his heart when he was still a student. “I have always wondered why young people prefer to go elsewhere, in Europe or Asia, rather than in Africa, while the latter is full of potential. Based on this observation, for me it was imperative to reverse this trend and give priority to our home, Africa,” says Samuel. Hence, in 2019, he decided with, 22-year-old Algerian Mezhoura Lahiani, then a student on the same campus, to launch this project which later in 2022 was translated into a startup.

« It is a struggle for all, that of enhancing and developing Africa by taking advantage of the opportunities, especially investment opportunities offered by this huge continent »

And for once, the earliest beginnings were easy, says Samuel. “Our elders believed in us. They support and encourage us, among others the Algerian authorities through the various ministries including that of startups which support us, diplomatic representations in Algeria, led by the Embassy of Madagascar in the person of its ambassador, Rafalimanana Jeannie Berthina, who is always listening to us and accompanying us. For we all want an Africa that produces and not consumes. It is a struggle for all, that of enhancing and developing Africa by taking advantage of opportunities, including investment offered by this huge continent,” he specified.

This support is “crucial” for Unique You, in so far as it allows him to “work and innovate in a well-structured way by being supervised and sponsored. And therefore, to move forward and secure gains in actions and in time”, notes Samuel, who says he is “grateful” to those who are supporting them to achieve their goal. 

« Africa, a sustainable destination for social and economic development »

Although the project is currently run by young people, the startup’s team is thinking big and is already planning for the future. Their challenge, “to be present across the continent in the next five years”; the objective is “to highlight Africa, and make it a sustainable destination of choice for social and economic development,” says Samuel. 

“This is a challenge to be met. My source of inspiration that feeds my ambitions and pushes me to persevere and go all the way, me and my staff, I draw it from one of the famous quotes of Nobel Peace Prize Martin Luther King” which remains relevant: “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” A “magic” formula meaning that “nothing is impossible”, this passionate of Africa wants to believe. Thus, their slogan sums up this vision: “who says Unique You says success, who says success says Africa”. According to Mezhoura, it is a “common continental project of mutual interest”, to which it is necessary to “attract the various countries which compose it”. 

Madagascar, Mozambique, Burundi and Algeria, first countries to visit 

Unique You has already expanded in three African countries, namely Madagascar, Burundi and Mozambique. The first destination is Madagascar. It will be launched next July by the startup, in close collaboration with the Embassy of Madagascar in Algeria and the National Tourism Office of Madagascar, in the presence of representatives of the diplomatic corps and Algerian authorities. The approach is to introduce this region and its wealth, from Algeria, through a digital and communication strategy via the platform and site of Unique You. This is in anticipation of a trip to the fifth largest island in the world that will be organized next September. The course will be set thereafter on “Burundi, Mozambique and Algeria in 2023.

« Interregional tourism for inclusive growth »

Convinced that tourism is an “engine” of sustainable development and “inclusive of the continent”, the Unique You team, in its strategy to enhance and promote the continent and its various destinations and cultures, also focuses on boosting the “dynamics of the continent and the spirit of entrepreneurship, which is one of the key axes of our approach. This is done through guided tours whose main contribution would be to build contacts between economic operators, African youth including those with high potential, and the student community. That is to say, to create a revolution of partnerships, besides the exploration component”, says Samuel. In this regard, “interregional” tourism from Algeria to other African countries and vice versa, would “diversify the African economy for inclusive growth for all,” according to him.

« An attractive, united and prosperous continent » 

Other task that the startup has set for itself is to develop Africa through education, via an innovative platform that provides psychological assistance, support and guidance for B to B and B to C. The goal is to make Africa “an attractive, united and prosperous continent”. According to Samuel, several companies as well as private schools agree with his approach which they find “beneficial”. 

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