In the past decade, whenever she would travel to Africa from Canada, Guinea-born Fatimatou Diallo noticed something: She wanted to stay at Black-owned hotels and homestays, but she had trouble finding them. There was no one place for them. And so she decided to do something about it.
In 2018, Diallo created Sleep in Africa, an Instagram account that featured Black-owned accommodations on the continent, from ecofriendly bush camps in Botswana to boutique island lodges in Senegal. Today, the account has more than 11,000 followers.
Diallo says that her mission in founding Sleep in Africa was multifold. “I wanted to create a place and a community where travelers could exchange recommendations, get advice, and give feedback on where to stay in Africa,” she says. “I also wanted to show the diversity and authenticity of Africa.”
Diallo, who studied translation and works in project management at a translation company, has always wanted to contribute to the development of tourism in Africa. She says she recognizes the struggles Black hotel and lodge owners face on the continent and wants to help play a part in raising awareness of some of its boutique properties.
“Global hotel chains already have a very good reputation internationally as well as high visibility. This gives them an important advantage since most travelers may feel more confident to book a room in one of them,” Diallo says. “Black-owned hotels need to stand out to build a strong reputation to attract visitors, which can be difficult because they are not on a level playing field with their foreign competitors.”
This work has become even more urgent during the pandemic, which has had a major impact on the tourism industry in Africa, causing billions of dollars of losses from the sharp decrease in international arrivals. Curfews and border closings have affected hotels, and many Black-owned accommodations have been hit hardest by a lack of resources or access to grants. Some—like Ecolodge Kunda in Congo, or Villa 37 in Durban, South Africa—had to close temporarily. Others have had to lay off staff.
In the height of the pandemic, Diallo in 2020 cocreated a free Black-Owned Hotels and Rentals Guide with Sara Jabril, a strategic marketer based in Tshwane (Pretoria), South Africa. The guide lists 39 hotels and 17 rental properties, each featuring information such as the websites and social media pages of the properties. Each property went through a “Black-owned verification process” and the names of the owners of the properties are available on request. And more is on the way: Currently, Diallo is working on a website that allows travelers to book Black-owned hotels and homestays around the world.
As people return to travel, studies show they are interested in doing so with more awareness about the places and people they choose to support when they decide where to go (and where to stay). Says Diallo: “As the global situation is slowly starting to change, it is very important to show support to these establishments as much as we can when we travel.”
5 Black-owned accommodations Diallo recommends
N’Zi River Lodges (Ivory Coast): To get a safari feel outside of East/South Africa, she suggests this spot, which sits—as the name suggests—right on the N’Zi River.
Dakosta Eco Retreat (Guinea-Bissau): A charming ecoretreat on one of the country’s (roughly) 88 islands.
Ecolodge Kunda (Congo): Amazing ecofriendly family cabins amid nature.
Daze House (South Africa): An intimate place with lots of art. The 10 rooms are beautifully furnished, and their design is inspired by different African countries.
- Maison d’Hôtes au Fil du Fleuve (Senegal): A traditional Saint-Louis house that celebrates Senegalese culture.