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UNWTO: It’s now or never for Africa

In the office: Dr Walter Mzembi ,endorsed by his country Zimbabwe as well as SADC and the AU , is Africa's united candidate for the UNWTO secretary general position here he stands amidst some of the many awards and memorabilia he has accumulated as Zimbabwe's minister of tourism

In the office: Dr Walter Mzembi ,endorsed by his country Zimbabwe as well as SADC and the AU , is Africa’s united candidate for the UNWTO secretary general position here he stands amidst some of the many awards and memorabilia he has accumulated as Zimbabwe’s minister of tourism

Freedom Mupanedemo Syndication Writer
THE United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) will today vote to elect a new Secretary-General with Africa holding its breath, as it backs its sole candidate, Zimbabwe’s Dr Walter Mzembi, to triumph in a plebiscite, which the world tourism community has been awaiting with keen interest. Africa’s hopes to land the world tourism’s top post have been heightened following the withdrawal by another African candidate, Seychelles’ Alain St Ange, with the island nation declaring it was now supporting Dr Mzembi’s candidature.

The candidate to emerge victorious in this watershed election where five candidates are locking horns will take over from the incumbent, Dr Taleb Rifai, and will be entrusted to steer the world’s tourism ship until 2021 when the next election is held.

Africa, itself, a rising tourism giant in its bid to pick from the growing global tourism competitiveness, unanimously fielded one candidate in the name of Dr Mzembi to carry the African torch to the portals of the UNWTO.

Other candidates vying for the UNWTO’s top job are Brazil’s Marcio Favilla, Colombia’s Jaime Alberto Cabal Sanclemente, Zurab Pololikashvili of Georgia, Young-shim Dho of South Korea.

St Ange withdrew from the race at the eleventh hour probably after his government finally saw the light, realising it was the only African country going against Africa’s position to field one candidate.

There have also been some allegations of vote buying by Georgia‘s Pololikashvile which saw the world tourism community issuing statements condemning the mischief.

“I am pleased to read your statement regarding the corrupt situation surrounding the election procedure and I fully support the courage of eTurbo News to go public.

“UNWTO has had the privilege to be headed by outstanding personalities, persons who have brought the organisation up from a slumbering past. Persons with integrity and knowledge of tourism and its global importance for not only developed economies but particularly for many new countries for which worldwide tourism has become the primary foreign exchange earning (sector).We therefore hope for a fair election to succeed Dr Taleb Rifai,” commented Mr Birker Backman, former head of United Federation of Travel Agents (UFTAA) a well-known tourism industry leader on the reports that Georgia was involved in vote buying.

With Dr Mzembi emerging a clear favourite in the race to succeed Dr Rifai, following St Ange’s withdrawal, Africa is now dreaming.

For one to be pronounced winner, a candidate needs to garner at least 17 votes out of the available 33 executive council votes across the world.

Africa has 10 executive council votes while Europe also has 10 votes. The Americas have five votes while South Asia and the Pacific also has the same number of five votes. The Middle East has three executive council votes to complete the total 33 available votes.

What it means is that Dr Mzembi is now the favourite with all the 10 votes from Africa now considered a done deal.

Analysts who spoke to Zimpapers Syndication said it was Africa’s time while they expressed confidence in the continent’s candidate.

“It’s now or never! This is probably the first platform where we have seen regional leaders coming up with one voice and we are confident that Africa through Dr Mzembi will land this post.

“We will keep our fingers crossed and we are hopeful of getting into the weekend in a celebratory mood,” said Mr George Manyumwa, a tourism guru.

Zimbabwe Council for Tourism president Mr Tich Hwingwiri said Africa’s tourism has been growing steadily and if Dr Mzembi wins the UNWTO’s top post it will spur global tourism.

“It’s a chance that Africa really needs to embrace, It’s a dream that we all hope should come true if global tourism was to grow,” he said.

UNWTO is one of the 17 specialised agencies of the United Nations and is mandated to promote responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism.

Since its inception in 1975, only Africa and Asia are still to land the Secretary- General post.

UNWTO Secretaries-General

  • Lobet Lonati (France)
  • 1975-1985
  • Willibald Pahr (Australia) 1986-1989
  • Antonio Enriques Savignac (Mexico)
  • 1990-1996
  • Francesco Frangialli  (France)
  • 1997-2009
  • Taleb Rifai (Jordan) 2010-present
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