Magazine article New African

All-Star African Hospitality: Azalai Hotel Group Is the First African Hotel Chain Group in the West Africa Region, Providing Direct Employment to about 700 Persons, and Supporting over 3,500 Jobs Indirectly

Magazine article New African

All-Star African Hospitality: Azalai Hotel Group Is the First African Hotel Chain Group in the West Africa Region, Providing Direct Employment to about 700 Persons, and Supporting over 3,500 Jobs Indirectly

Article excerpt

There was once a time when the international business person, traveling to any major city in West Africa, would only have the option of booking a business-class hotel room with one of the big international groups. That has all changed now with the launch of the Azalai group's hotels in West Africa, the first indigenous African business-class hotel chain.

It is the dream of the Malian businessman, Mossadeck Bally, who began the Azalai group in 1994 and opened his first hotel in Mali's capital Bamako.

"Before that I was in the family's import-export business, mainly trading in foodstuffs such as rice, sugar, milk and edible oils throughout West Africa," he explains.

Prior to joining his family's company he had studied business in both France and the US. He identified the lack of business class hotels in West Africa and decided this provided a huge opportunity.

"I started my own company, Societe Malienne de Promotion Hoteliere (SMPH), and we began operations by purchasing the Grand Hotel in Bamako," he says. The venerable Grand Hotel had suffered from years of under-investment, but Bally's company breathed new life into the established.

"We completely refurbished it with a loan from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and that's how Azalai started. Then in 1997 we bought land in Bamako where we built our second hotel, the five-star Azalai Hotel Salam," Bally says. The company also entered into a management agreement for Azalai Hotel Nord Sud in the Malian capital, finally buying the hotel outright in 2010 and currently rented, in its entirety, to the EU.

In 2004, Azalai moved into Burkina Faso and, following the same business model as the first hotel in Bamako, refurbished an existing, previously government-owned property to create the Azalai Hotel Independance. This hotel is currently undergoing another round of refurbishment.

The following year, in 2005, Bally consolidated his company's hotel activities under the Azalai brand. The most recent hotels to be developed are a fourth property in Bamako, the 35-room Azalai Hotel Dunia (which Bally describes as a "value-for-money, budget hotel for the business traveller"), and more recently Azalai Abidjan in Cote d'Ivoire as well as the 135-room Azalai Hotel Marhaba a Nouakchott, Mauritania.

The Azalai Hotel Dounia has a hugely important role in the group, being the training centre for all Azalai Hotel staff.

Azalai successfully opened a new hotel in 2007, in Guinea Bissau --and in April 2012 inaugurated a new property, the Azalai Hotel de la Plage in Cotonou, the commercial capital of the Republic of Benin.

Speaking at the 2015 New York Forum Africa in Libreville, Gabon, Bally had focused on the importance of developing Africa's human resources. His business philosophy is based on the theory that while the "Africa Rising" narrative is compelling and in part true, the issue of youth education is often forgotten.

"My advice to Africa's youth is to get technical, vocational training because in most of our countries, we put too much emphasis on higher education," Bally says. "When we are looking for a team, it is often very difficult to get the appropriate competencies. Many, many young people don't get jobs because there is not the proper training."

There is also another development strand to Bally's thinking--the importance of good business hotels in attracting foreign direct investment. …

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