By Irene Gaitirira
Published September 22, 2016
A Zimbabwean has been endorsed to head the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
Walter Mzembi, Africa’s longest serving Minister for Tourism, has received endorsement to run for the UNWTO’s Secretary-General’s post that falls vacant in May 2017 from the African Union Executive Council, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Regional Tourism Organization of Southern Africa (RETOSA) and the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA), a think tank that brings together public and private sectors in the United States of America (USA) and promotes business and investment between USA and Africa.
Dr Mzembi, an engineer, is the current Minister for Tourism and Hospitality Industry. He is seeking to succeed Dr Taleb Rifai of Jordan whose term as Secretary-General ends in May 2017.
Speaking at the 11th Annual Presidential Forum held annually on the sidelines of the United Nation General Assembly in New York on September 21, 2016, the President and Chief Executive Officer of CCA, Stephen Hayes, said, “Dr Mzembi has been twice President of Africa Travel Association and he is the current Chair of the UNWTO Regional Commission for Africa with the requisite leadership competences to lead the world tourism body. He is highly qualified and has demonstrated clear policy direction for global tourism. We are proud of him as a dynamic leader with a transformative agenda that will drive sustainable tourism development. Africa, as a collective is contesting this post for the first time, and it is important that we give this Minister our full support. As CCA, we are very much behind you Walter.”
Calling upon players in the global tourism industry and member states of UNWTO to support Dr Mzembi, African Union Commission Vice Chairperson, Dr Erastus Mwencha, said, “I am here to talk briefly about tourism but not better qualified to do so than our Minister, my brother here Walter Mzembi whom you all heard is our African Union candidate. He is able to do it. I take him as the real deal broker we should deploy at the UNWTO. Our dynamic candidate can connect the world to Africa’s immense tourism and investment opportunities in line with our Agenda 2063 and the Africa We Want.”
Yaw Nyarko, the Director of Africa House at New York University and Professor of Economics told Dr Mzembi: “We are fully behind you, and if I had a vote, it is yours. You are the best and right person for the job to carry forward the legacy of the incumbent.”
Dr Kristin M Lamoureux, an Assistant Dean of Tisch Centre for Hospitality and Tourism at New York University, noted,“We are joining the UNWTO as an Affiliate Organization and we will support you Dr Walter Mzembi.”
Dr Mzembi Mzembi was appointed Zimbabwe’s tourism minister in 2009 and found his way into the UNWTO Executive Council, which plays a critical role in developing tourism worldwide. He currently serves as the UNWTO Regional Commission for Africa Chairperson.
No African has ever contested for the position of Secretary General of UNTWO since its inception in 1975.That the Mother Continent–as a bloc–is fielding a candidate with unprecedented unanimity just shows how serious it takes the position of SG of UNWTO, one of the 17 specialised agencies of the United Nations whose mandate is to promote what it calls responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism as an effective tool for development.
UNWTO covers 157 countries, six territories, and 480 affiliate groups representing the private sector, educational institutions, tourism associations, and local tourism authorities.
UNWTO, UN’s specialised agency, promotes tourism as a driver for “economic growth, inclusive development and environmental sustainability” worldwide.
Mzembi is a three-time past President of the New York (USA)-based Africa Travel Association (ATA), a major organization that deals with promotion of tourism relationships between Africa and US. ATA has since been acquired by CCA, a Washington DC (USA)-based Think Tank that brings together public and private sectors in the USA and promotes business and investment between USA and Africa.
Observers are watching to see how a candidate from Africa whose global tourism market share ranges between 3% and 5% shall perform during election at the 22nd UNWTO General Assembly in Beijing, China, in 2017.
Africa’s global tourism market share may be almost negligible but the continent’s candidate for UNWTO’s top job cannot be easily dismissed. His Curriculum Vitae shows him to be deeply rooted within UNWTO. How so?
Dr Walter Mzembi has not only been Minister for Tourism and Hospitality Industry for the Republic of Zimbabwe since 2009 and Chair for UNWTO Regional Commission for Africa since 2013, but he has also served as Chairman of the Southern Africa Development Community Committee of Tourism Ministers in 2015, UNWTO Executive Council Member from 2009 to 2013, UNWTO Co-President in Session 20 of the General Assembly between 2013 and 2015, as well as three-time President of APA.
Which candidate could possibly beat Mzembi who has achieved the following fetes:
• Recognized as a Tourism Leader by the International Coalition of Tourism Partners (ICTP)
• African Tourism Minister of the Year (2011): African Investor Tourism Investment Awards
• Africa Leadership Awards (2012), Mauritius
• Brand Leadership Award (2012)
• Mark of Excellence Award (2012)
• Africa Leadership and Inspiration Award (2012)
• TouchRoad Sino – Africa Investment Excellence Awards (2011), Shanghai, China
• Africa Travel Association-Outstanding Service to the Association (2012), USA
• Special Recognition for Excellence Award: African Achievers Awards (2012), Nairobi, Kenya
• Africa Travel Association Presidency Appreciation Award (2012-2014), USA
• Public Service Manager of the Year (2011), Zimbabwe Institute of Management
• Tourism Personality of the Year (2011), Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe
• Tourism Personality of the Year (2012), Zimbabwe Council for Tourism
• Outstanding Contribution to Agriculture in Zimbabwe (2012), Zimbabwe Farmers Union
• Most Consumer Focused Executive-Service Excellence Awards (2014), Customer Contact Centre
• Tourism Image Builder of the Year (2014), Megafest Tourism Awards
• Exceptional Contribution to Marketing (2015), Marketers Association of Zimbabwe
• Customer Service Executive of the Year-Service Excellence in the Public Sector (2015), Marketers Association of Zimbabwe?
If elected, Dr Walter Mzembi says he will align the three tourism-specific Sustainable Development Goals on ‘decent work and economic growth’, ‘responsible consumption and production’, and ‘life below water’ besides embedding tourism’s intervention in the African Union’s Agenda 2063.