Zainab Ansell named sole Tanzanian changemaker in travel, tourism niche in 2023

A magazine recognises the female entrepreneur for successfully thriving in the male-dominated industry

TUESDAY January 29, 2024

Ms Zainab Ansell, the founder and CEO of ZARA Tours based in Kilimanjaro Region, Tanzania, has been named one of 100 Tanzanian changemakers. PHOTO | FILE

By Adam Ihucha

The Tranquility News Correspondent, Tanzania

A maiden Tanzania edition of 100 Inspiring Changemakers has gleamed a spotlight on extraordinary woman, Zainab Ansell, who is making her mark on the multi-billion-dollars tourism industry today.

Zainab, is a woman and a half, as she is the sole player from tourism industry that earns the economy $3.3 billion per annum, featuring in the list of Tanzania’s trailblazers, disrupters and changemakers of the year 2023 picked from all walks of life.

The prestigious magazine recognises Zainab, the founder and CEO of Zara Tours, one of the high-profile tour operators in East Africa, for becoming a successful female entrepreneur in the male-dominated industry.

Ms Ansel, a passionate advocate for sustainable tourism, social justice and environment conservation, launched ZARA Charity in 2009 to give back to marginalised communities and support healthcare, education, women empowerment and wildlife protection.

The local and international award winner also launched ZARA Foundation to conserve ecosystems and clean up the Indian Ocean.

“She is one of the 100 Tanzanian Changemakers 2023 because she embodies the spirit of innovation, leadership and service that inspires and transforms the nation,” the magazine declares.

Ms Zainab, a former employee of Air Tanzania in the 1980s before quitting to start her tour and air ticketing company, is one of the unsung heroines of our time. Being a lady in the tourist business, she fought extremely hard in a male-dominated society and has emerged triumphant.

If you visit Ms. Zainab’s office during the workdays. You will be shocked to see the same long, long queues commonly found at health facilities in African rural outfits.

People from all walks of life throng Ms. Zainab’s office, each seeking to consult her, as with a medical doctor.

But unlike a medical doctor, Ms. Zainab often wears an infectious smile instead of the much-dreaded stethoscope as she serves one person after another with great humility.

The founder and CEO of ZARA Tours, Ms Zainab Ansell, poses for a picture with some tourists. ZARA Tours offers its clients an opportunity for making a difference to host communities by engaging in various activities, including tree planting. PHOTO | SHE LEADS AFRICA

Some people never notice that she is at the helm of Zara Tanzania Adventurer — one of the biggest and most prominent tour companies in the natural-resource most prosperous East African country.

The rare personality traits in most Tanzanian chief executive officers have enabled her to touch thousands of lives, particularly those from vulnerable groups.

Her gifted hands have changed thousands of lives in Tanzania. She employs nearly 1,410 on a permanent and seasonal basis, sustaining thousands of families in a country where unemployment is among Tanzania’s significant social and economic challenges.

Official data put the rate of unemployment in Tanzania at 2.74 percent. However, according to the World Bank, about 900,000 youthful Tanzanians enter the job market each year, which can generate barely between 50,000 and 60,000 new opportunities only.

Besides addressing unemployment, Ms. Zainab is also at the forefront of helping the surrounding indigenous peoples, mostly Maasai.

Maasai women make, sell and display their bead work. ZARA Tours has developed a unique window for helping marginalised Maasai women to liberate them from harmful shackles of their traditional norms. PHOTO | PINTEREST

To support the pastoralist community members, she has built a school where children under seven years of age are educated free of charge.

Ms. Zainab has not only constructed the school and left, but she also runs the facility, with 95 kids from the Maasai nomadic pastoralists pursuing their dreams in life.

With the school, the Maasai kids have somewhere to study.

She has also developed a unique window for helping marginalised Maasai women in her fresh bid to liberate them from the harmful shackles of their traditional norms.

Ms Zainab is single-handedly struggling to address historical injustice compounded by the oppression and exploitation of women.

ZARA Charity has built a children’s education centre at Pasua, Kaloleni, in Moshi Municipality, Tanzania, which enrolls children aged between three and five years from disadvantaged backgrounds, particularly from pastoralist communities. PHOTO | ZARA CHARITY

She has also been financially empowering the Maasai women to buy raw materials for making beads and selling them to foreign tourists.

Hundreds of Maasai women benefit from tourists’ dollars by hawking beads and carvings along the roads heading for important tourist sites.

Thanks to Ms. Zainab’s quest for seeing local community members get direct returns for conserving tourist attractions surrounding them for ages.

Ms. Zainab has bankrolled first aid training sessions, beginners’ English courses, HIV and AIDS education, and financial management training, to mention but a few, to nearly 900 porters.

She has initiated Zara Charity, intending to stimulate a global movement on sustainable tourism by giving back to the community through the network of travel industry partners, organisations, travelers, and global citizens interested in reaching out to and supporting vulnerable groups in Tanzania.

Workers of Zara International Travel Agency popularly known as ZARA Tours pose for a photo during the 50th anniversary of Kilimanjaro National Park at Marangu Gate in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, in March 2023. ZARA Tours boast recruiting about 1,410 workers on both permanent and seasonal basis. PHOTO | FILE

Serengeti Bytes, a firm dealing in marketing, marketing research, corporate communications, ranking and rating, and digital solutions for corporates, governments and non-governmental organisations, prepares, organises and presents the 100 Tanzanian Changemakers magazine

In its maiden edition, the annual magazine features 37 women and 63 men from diverse backgrounds to celebrate and uplift exceptional individuals driving positive change across the country by amplifying their inspiring stories.

The changemakers are identified basing on positive impact of their work on their sectors and creative and effective approaches they use for addressing challenges and bringing about solutions and driving change.

Also considered is the ability of their work to inspire others and to have a lasting and positive impact.

The magazine features Dr Samia Suluhu Hassan as the tribalizing first Tanzania President for carrying out reforms and creating competitive environment for investments.

Her administration has actually seen foreign direct investment rise from $2 billion in 2020 to an impressive $5 billion by June 2023Ω

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