Dream deferred for Africa’s UNWTO vision

By Freedom Mupanedemo

For the first time, Africa spoke with one voice and rallied behind one candidate in its bid to land the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO)’s Secretary General post.

And the entrusted candidate was Zimbabwe’s Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Dr Walter Mzembi, himself a well-known tourism industry leader who immediately hit the ground running campaigning for the post while carrying the African tourism vision.

A vision well-articulated, a vision well embraced by Africa and indeed the tourism world went up in smoke when Dr Mzembi agonisingly lost by three votes to Georgia’s Zurab Pololikashvilli in last Friday’s tightly contested elections.

Dr Mzembi lost in the second round of the election after leading the first round with 11 votes but failed to garner the mandatory 17 votes for one to be pronounced winner.

According to UNWTO election rules, the top two candidates go into a second round poll if the first elections fail to produce an outright winner.

Pololikashvilli, the eventual winner, had polled 8 votes in the first while the only female candidate, Republic of Korea’s Young Shim Dho, came third with 7 votes.

Brazil’s Marcio Favilla polled 4 votes while Colombia’s Jaime Alberto Cabal Sanclemente polled the least number of votes (3).

Africa’s hope to have a first ever secretary–general to run the UNWTO since its inception in 1975 went up in smoke in the second round when Mzembi lost to Pololikashvilli who polled 18 votes, while he got 15.

Mzembi’s loss was a huge set-back for Africa which had rested its faith in the Zimbabwean candidate with great expertise in how tourism is run.

It’s was a dream deffered for Africa’s tourism vision.

While conceding defeat, Mzembi pledged to work with Polokashvilli and drew courage from how he managed to sell the brand Africa during his globe-trotting campaign culminating in his narrow loss.

“It was a narrow loss. But it is the brand Zimbabwe and brand Africa that proved that it is seeking a bigger stake in the world. The election loss should not be viewed as the end of everything,” Mzembi told reporters in his post-election interview in Madrid last week.

Indeed Mzembi took Africa to all corners of the world while campaigning for the UNWTO’s top job but SADC and the African Union, which rallied behind his candidature, should be disappointed for failing to finally live to its dream of steering the UNWTO ship for the first time since its inception.

Africa, herself a rising tourism giant, in her bid to pick from the growing global tourism competitiveness, had banked on Mzembi to take the tourism world to new heights.

“It was so devastating, Africa was hoping and was so close but at last it was all blown away. This was the best chance but as fate would have it, we lost. We are, however, confident and hopeful that one day, Africa with its rising tourism, would one day lead the UNWTO,” commented  George Manyumwa, a well know tourism guru.

Employers Association for Tours and Safari Operators (EATSO) president Clement Mkwasi said Mzembi was the best candidate that SADC and the AU fielded for the UNWTO elections despite the loss.

He said Mzembi’s narrow loss spoke volumes of the candidate that the continent had fielded adding that the continent should not lose hope.

“It was indeed a narrow loss but the continent is doing well in terms of tourism and should continue working in this positive trajectory. The UNWTO elections will be back some few years to come and we should start working hard as a continent if our dream of leading the UNWTO are to become a reality,” he said.

May 2017
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