Five months to open the school
The Chiaka Sidibé Hotel School (EHCS) thus emerged against a background of political instability tempered by hopes for economic recovery and inclusive development. “This is a project we’ve been deeply attached to for ten years, one that took several tries,” explains Aminata Soumah, the Azalaï HR Manager and project coordinator. With French-speaking West Africa forecast to grow faster than any other region of Africa for the third year straight, and with the hospitality and tourism sector working to establish higher standards, EHCS’s time has come, she says.
“The school grew out of the need to close a gap,” adds Mossadeck Bally, the CEO of Azalaï Hotels. “We realized we couldn’t find young people who already had basic hotel training, so we decided to tackle the problem on our own, found a school and train young people ourselves.” As it happens, what set the wheels in motion was an encounter with Bernard Creff, a native of Brittany and former Accor Hotels executive. Restless, always game for new challenges, known for his pioneering work in Cambodia, where he started a hospitality industry vocational school in Siem Reap that currently has over 40 trainees a year, he started the project in Mali at the beginning of 2015. Creff moved swiftly to bring in Nicolas Huet, a former Campus France executive, to run the programme. Named for a trusted colleague of Bally’s who died in 2010, Chiaka Sidibé opened in September 2015 on the premises of the Azalaï Dunia Hotel. “Once Mossadeck Bally got me involved in this great project, it barely took us five months to set up the Bamako school,” recalls Creff.