Why Mzembi will not fail Africa’s UNWTO vision
Dr Mzembi

Dr Mzembi

Freedom Mupanedemo Syndication Writer
Zimbabwe’s Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister, Dr Walter Mzembi, has been entrusted to carry the African torch to the portals of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation and his vision articulated in a 10-point plan he announced during the official launch of his campaign in Madrid, Spain, recently, must have left many salivating while keeping their fingers crossed.

UNWTO is one of the 17 specialised agencies of the United Nations and is mandated to promote responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism and since its inception in 1974, only Africa and Asia are still to occupy Secretary-General top job currently held by Jordan’s Dr Taleb Rifai. And with Dr Mzembi’s all-inclusive vision towards the development of tourism, not only in Africa, but the world at large, there is every reason for all and sundry to start believing that it is surely time that the UNWTO Secretary-General’s post comes to Africa.

In fact, history vindicates Africa on the few instances when Africans were mandated to run international organisations, they have done very well. Twice, Africans Dr Boutros Boutros Ghali of Egypt and Ghana’s Dr Kofi Annan headed the United Nations itself between 1992 to 1996 and 1997 to 2006, respectively.

Each left an indelible mark on the UN echelons and with Dr Mzembi’s experience in the UNWTO executive council and African Commission of Tourism, there is no doubt he will take global tourism to new heights if given a chance. He is surely an agent for change. While Dr Annan is from West Africa, the late Dr Ghali was from North Africa and Africa’s UNWTO candidate Dr Walter Mzembi is from Southern Africa, itself a clear indication of unselfishness and zeal by African Heads of State and Government to give every region a chance. Pretty aware of what Africa expects of him, Dr Mzembi has already embarked on a whirlwind tour of the world seeking votes as the UNWTO plebiscite pencilled in for 11 and 12 May reaches a crescendo.

PEOPLE: Walter Mzembi

Dr Mzembi’s campaign appeared in jeopardy due to lack of funding, but now there is hope thanks to Zimbabwe’s telecommunications giant, NetOne, which has chipped in with the necessary funding for his campaign. The sponsorship package from the mobile operator, which will cater for Dr Mzembi’s communication and publicity needs, will go a long way in selling his vision for the UNWTO as outlined in the 10-point plan. Some of the major highlights in Dr Mzembi’s 10-point plan include improving membership of the UNWTO from the current 157 to match the total number of the actual UN membership, which stands at 192.

He also seeks to develop value propositions that meet member states’ aspirations beyond the current technical policy functions with emphasis to networking and partnerships for tourism resource mobilisation and developmental needs.

Dr Mzembi also seeks to put in place a responsive strategy in the face of the emerging threats to the development of global tourism brought about by such factors as terrorism, climate change, epidemics and human trafficking.

Of importance to note also in Dr Mzembi’s vision is the desire to promote fairness through crafting policies that foster global tourism growth and availing equitable resources to member States.

Dr Mzembi seeks to spur global tourism GDP from the present 10 percent to 15 percent during his tenure.

Because of his expertise and experience in the tourism industry, many have put money on the candidature of Dr Mzembi to land the UNWTO top job come May. But like in any election, there are bound to be upsets, so Africa and many neutrals should not be shaken to the marrow when the unthinkable happens. Candidates for the UNWTO are a mixed bag and below a list of those gunning for the same post and their brief profile.

Dr Walter Mzembi (53)— Zimbabwe
Currently the longest serving tourism Minister in Africa, Dr Mzembi was elected into the Parliament of Zimbabwe in 2004 as the legislator for Masvingo South Constituency. A hard worker who once described by the Republic of Zimbabwe President Mugabe as “one of my best ministers”, Dr Mzembi has been the Minister of Tourism and Hospitality industry since February 2009.

He has great expertise and experience in the UNWTO where he served in its executive council as the chairman of the UNWTO Commission for Africa from 2009 up to date.

Dr Mzembi was the co-president of the 20th session of the UNWTO General Assembly and three-time president of Africa Travel Association (ATA).

Under Dr Mzembi’s leadership, Zimbabwe which was smarting from being branded an unsafe tourist destination was conferred with the 2014-15 World Best Destination and the Best Preferred Cultural Destination award by the Bucharest based European Council on Tourism and Trade.

Zimbabwe, under the stewardship of Dr Mzembi was also named number 14 out of 52 “Must Visit Destinations” by the New York Times in January 2015.

Ma’rcio Favilla Lucca de Paula (59) Brasil
Probably the biggest test that Dr Water Mzembi would face is the candidature of Mar’cio Favilla Lucca de Paula of Brazil who is the UNWTO’s current executive director for Operational Programmes and Institutional Relations, itself a position which makes him the second in charge of the UNWTO.

With much experience and boasting the institutional knowledge of the UNWTO, analysts believe, Ma’rcio is the biggest obstacle in Mzembi’s way to the top post.

In fact Ma’rcio is the one currently pulling the strings of the UNWTO after Dr Rifai decided to step down before May, a move analysts say was meant to give his second in command a head start.

However, Dr Mzembi has an edge in that he is an agent for change while the former Brazil’s Vice Minister of Tourism, Mar’cio who has been within the institution’s top hierarchy for years would maintain the status quo.

Gloria Guevera (48) Mexico
While the Mexicans in particular and probably Latin America in general would want to bring in the issue of gender to gain sympathy and appeal for votes for the candidature of Gloria Guevera, the 48 year old Mexico’s former secretary for Tourism still remain a dark horse in the fight to land the UNWTO top job. She is, however, determined to pull out some shock.

Guevera has some experience in the tourism industry having served as the Minister of Tourism for years.

Mexico over the past decade has worked to establish itself as a premier destination for elite travellers and there is no doubt the Mexican Government is lobbying hard to have Guevera land the top job.

Mr Lahcen Haddad (57)
Born 16 March 1960, Morocco’s Lahcen Haddad from the Popular Movement has been the Minister of Tourism since January 2012. Mr Haddad was named “personality of the year” 2015 by the Center for Travel Media in Dubai as part of the 8th edition of tourism trophies granted by the centre annually since 2008.

He hopes to steer the UNWTO wheel after he joined other candidates in Madrid when he officially unveiled their candidature. His country was recently readmitted into the African Union and his candidature is against the AU position which seconded one candidate in the name of Dr Mzembi.

Alain St. Ange (56) Seychelles
Largely regarded as a spoiler, Alain St. Ange’s candidature is in direct breach of the AU’s Kigali resolution which seconded one candidate for the UNWTO post in the form of Zimbabwe’s Dr Mzembi.

Believed to be sponsored by some European elements bent on splitting the African vote, St Ange resigned from his post as Seychelles Minister for Tourism & Culture last December to focus on his campaign for the UNWTO top post

Zurab Pololikashvili (60) Georgia
The Georgian Ambassador to Madrid, Mr Pololikashvili probability took advantage of the convenient location of his office to throw his hat into the ring. During the official launch of the campaign which was done in Madrid where Ambassador Pololikashvili is based, he articulated a more localized vision putting economic opportunities for his country in the foreground, a development which left many doubting his seriousness to turn around the UNWTO.

UNWTO secretary generals since its inception

  • France Robert Lonati 1975–1985
  • Austria Willibald Pahr 1986–1989
  • Mexico Antonio Enriquez Savignac 1990–1996
  • France Francesco Frangialli 1997–2009
  • Jordan Taleb Rifai 2010 Present

You Might Also Like