Mike Tavares – The Man Behind Ojimah’s Vision

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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.

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

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”.

Young Mike Tavares with his Mum and his siblings
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.

Where Mike Tavares went to boarding School in Coimbra
Where Mike went to boarding School in Coimbra

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 Management at the University of West England in the UK.

Coimbra, Portugal
Coimbra, Portugal

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 took a new role as Corporate Director of Hotel 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 Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, and Morocco.

And because he was already collaborating 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 developing the economy of Africa through sustainable tourism. Ojimah provides over 350 airlines, close to 1.2 million hotels, over 200 thousand activities on our platform. Furthermore, Ojimah’s unique user-centric interface provides destination guides, automated visa services, e-wallet, access to airport lounges, travel insurance, e-sim, and automatic check-in.

Mike Tavares of Ojimah in Cape Town
Mike Tavares of Ojimah in Cape Town

Ojimah is an ecosystem of solutions created to mitigate travel problems in the global new normal. Unlike other solutions, Ojimah facilitates a win–win situation for all industry players, travellers, and destinations alike.

“At Ojimah, we are convinced that the power of tourism, one of the most dynamic economic activities of our time, can effectively address some of the current issues that the continent is facing”, comments Mike.

Mike explains, “as part of our sustainable approach, Ojimah is exposing more high-quality local businesses to international and local travellers. By bringing them on board, the money spent by a tourist circulates through the local economy, generating local wealth”.

It is no secret that the African continent is often looked at through ‘dark glasses’. The continent currently has no microphone of its own on the global stage, no platform with which to tell its stories the way it wants them told. Ojimah is here to change that! At the same time, to make travel easier, more enjoyable, more sustainable, and more attainable.

“We want to be part of rebranding Africa by offering a solid platform where we can proudly share our true story with the world.” says Mike.

By shifting the narrative and publishing stories of travel, human interaction, celebration, kindness and community support, we empower people to see what’s possible and encourage good behaviour. By showcasing stories of solutions, transformation, and optimism, we are inspiring others to create change, by seeing and hearing that change is possible. 

Africa is energy, movement, joy, progress, love, tradition, strength, resilience, nature, power, wealth, history, unity, peace; in essence, Africa is LIFE. Wouldn’t it be great if the rest of the world got to experience these aspects first-hand?


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