Whilst Africa Day is intended to celebrate and acknowledge the successes of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU now the AU) from its creation on May 25, 1963 (from the fight against colonialism and apartheid, to the progress and many challenges that the continent faces), we choose to focus on the potential for growth, the entrepreneurial opportunities, the extraordinary people, and the fabulous destinations Africa offers to the traveller.

And what better way to do this than by sharing a story of hope and positivity… the story of the man behind Ojimah, and his vision for telling Africa’s stories differently.

Praia de Ofir beach at Bissagos Guinea-Bissau Africa
Praia de Ofir beach at Bissagos UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Guinea-Bissau (pic – Helena Maria Pestana)

#Meet the man behind Ojimah’s vision…

With a vision for telling Africa’s stories differently, for representing the numerous nations that call her home, for representing her diverse cultures and varying lifestyles. For telling stories of opportunity, entrepreneurship, and travel. But most of all for telling stories of HOPE… this is the heart of Ojimah, and the heart of the man behind its vision.

Meet Mike Tavares, the man behind Ojimah’s vision.

He was born in the former Portuguese colony of Guinea-Bissau on the west coast of Africa.

“At the tender age of six”, Mike tells us, “myself, my brother and my sister were sent to a boarding school in Portugal. It was really tough for a six-year-old”.

Mike Tavares family
Young Mike with his Mum and his siblings

Can you just imagine: different continent, different culture, different environment?

“The toughest part” he says, “was only seeing my parents once a year, during the summer holidays”.

“Today I look at my daughters and I can only imagine how hard was for my parents to do what they did. They have sacrificed their lives to give us a better future, just like many other African parents have done, and still do”.

Pause here for a moment. And consider the emotional sacrifice they made, the tears Mike’s Mum (and every other African parent who has been forced to make this tough decision) must have shed. Consider also the emotional toll it would have had on a six-year-old. Really tough.

But Mike made the most of the opportunity given to him, he studied hard at school and went on to university. He graduated with a master’s degree in Tourism and Travel Services Management at the University of Coimbra in Portugal, as well a master’s degree in Hospitality Administration Management at the University of West England in the UK.

The sacrifice his parents made was a price well paid. After graduating Mike started his career in hospitality and made his way up to the hotel management in brands like Radisson and Intercontinental. “Years later I become Director of Tourism Development with the Tourism Specialists of PGI Management,” he says, “and two years later I took a new role as Corporate Director of Operations, being responsible for the operations of the 18 hotels within the portfolio of HCI”.

This resulted in several trips to countries like Nigeria, where he realized there was a gap to fill in the African consulting market. After all, African businesses were paying prime fees to European consulting companies. Companies that had the industry expertise but did not have the local market knowledge. Always one to take the bull by the horns and not let an opportunity slip by, a few months later, Mike had gathered a team of Africans and founded United Consulting, a management consulting company specialized in tourism and hospitality for the African market.  

In partnership with PGI Management and First Logic Consulting, United Consulting provided services to public and private entities in countries like Morocco, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, and Morocco.

And because he was already working with tourism authorities and hotels owners, it made sense to add one final piece to the puzzle. The starting point for the multichannel platform that we now know as Ojimah – a multichannel platform aimed at opening the African travel market both to the world and to its regional tourists.

Mike Tavares CEO Ojimah for Africa Day
Mike Tavares, business man, entrepreneur and Africa advocate

With Ojimah going global, Mike says that he intends to put Africa on the map but this time, for the best reasons.

Mike explains, “our background allows us to understand the importance of respecting the rights, history, and culture of locals while ensuring that tourism supports their well-being. We believe in the multiplier effect of tourism, which in its simplest form is how many times money spent by a tourist circulates through a country’s economy, generating local wealth”.

Ojimah has story behind it – it represents cultures, nations, lifestyle, and HOPE! “Our story can be complemented with our vision for the continent: we envision Africa’s youth presenting a great opportunity to influence the emergence of a new generation of leaders; we envision more and more African women in positions of leadership and as entrepreneurs; but more importantly, we envision more cooperation between African countries” comments Mike.

“We want to be part of rebranding Africa as a global touristic destination by sharing stories and genuine experiences of travellers throughout the continent. We are not denying that the continent has several issues, however while we are looking for the solution for our problems, Ojimah will also focus on showcasing the bright side of Africa.”