There was an atmosphere of excitement yesterday, when www.eturbonews.com broke the news that Seychelles made last minutes endorsement of Zimbabwean Walter Mzembi as Africa’s sole candidates for the coming UNWTO Secretary General election and the immediate withdrawal of the candidacy of Seychelles former Minister of Tourism Alain St.Ange from the race.
It might have come late, but it was however welcomed and highly appreciated that Africa is working as team.
Whilst the gesture is being celebrated three days before the election, wwwafricantraveltimes.com can report authoritatively that the chance of Africa clinching or winning becomes slimmer by the day.
Sources that contacted this publication asserted that a European backed candidate will win because the travel and tourism industry at this moment is too important and cannot be left in the hands people or candidate that will not get the supports of big players around the world when it comes to major global matters.
According to eturbonews, the Seychelles President, Danny Faure was reported to have chaired an Extra-Ordinary Cabinet meeting at which the Seychelles Cabinet considered a formal request from the African Union Commission for Seychelles to withdraw the candidature of Alain St Ange for the election to the post of Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation.
“Having considered the stance taken by Seychelles at the Southern African Development Community [SADC] meeting in March 2016, and at the African Union [AU] meeting of July 2016, where member states, including Seychelles, had unanimously voted to support the Zimbabwean candidate, Cabinet members formally reviewed its decision to support the candidature of St Ange”.
The president was also quoted to have said, “This is in line with established practices governing the endorsement process for candidatures within the international system under the AU and SADC frameworks”.
“St Ange’s capacity to lead the UNWTO is unquestionable, as is his vast experience in the field of tourism. However, in light of our standing responsibilities and commitments within the context of the African Union, the Seychelles Government has decided to withdraw the candidature of St Ange for the position of Secretary General” he said.
Without doubt, Mzembi is the doyen of African tourism minister and is young.
He has done much to rekindle the spirit, visibility, and performance of Zimbabwe Tourism: as well as raising the profile and collaborative engagement of African nations through his longstanding chairmanship of the UNWTO Commission for Africa according to Geoffrey Lipman, a former Assistant Secretary General of the UNWTO.
Lipman stated forward that Mzembi’s plans for UNWTO are well thought through, bold, visionary, and yet at the same time soundly grounded in the organization’s structural reality.
Come Friday 12th of May 2017 in Madrid, Spain, Walter Mzembi will face the likes of Marcio Favilla, a committed Tourism leader, having served his country as Deputy Minister of Tourism and then as an Executive Director at UNWTO.
He has also been largely reported to be a good man who understands the opportunities and challenges facing the organization in increasingly uncertain times.
An insider but with significant outside experience and has been in the leadership of the organization for many years and he’s considered a safe pair of hands.
Another big obstacle for Mzembi is the the Dho/Vogeler ticket, something that is new for the organization – where two people have teamed up to complement their individual strength and challenges as candidates.
It is an anomaly. In the case of Carlos Vogeler he simply was unable to get the essential support of his government to run for the top job, and he covers the same region as Marcio Favilla. And the lead candidate Ambassador Young Shim Dho didn’t have the international political support needed to mount a powerful campaign.
The program they advocate is as expected preserving the good elements of the existing regime with a solid future focus – highly organized, designed and professionally presented.
“There are however, positive and negative issues in the concept of a ticket rather than an individual – moral and legal, the age, experience, compatibility, and balance of the candidates. Then there is the complex issue of the place of the flagship ST-EP program – now with a new Korean based International Organization to manage it”, noted Lipman.
Besides the aforementioned, Ambassador Zurab Pololikashvili has run a formidable political leadership campaign using European solidarity and the proactive engagement of his Head of State to advance his candidature.
His program of reform and stability is on the surface the kind of change the organization expects and needs. He targets the right internal / external realities as the other candidates and his “global” focus is an important recognition of increasing community influence on tourism’s future.
Ambassador Jaime Alberto Cabal the Colombian Ambassador to Austria, who identifies his President and country as a driving force behind his candidacy and Latin America as the base.
Since 2008, Mzembi has been involved in the industry and not much sincerely has changed or much value added to the Africa’s travel and tourism industry according many strategists and analysts.
He has done well for his country Zimbabwe, but not the continent they argued.
This writer in particular consulted for the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority [ZTA], an agency under the Ministry of Hospitality and Tourism that Mzembi heads and I can say categorically that trust is a scarce commodity in dealing with tourism administrators from that part of Africa.
Even as we support and pray that he wins come Friday, his victory does not lies in the hands of the few African tourism ministers that will be participating.
From my experience as a travel and tourism journalist that knows the history of the UNWTO and has also written extensively about it, Mzembi chances remains slim and doubting.
Wait till Friday, less than 20 African countries will be represented and everything will come down to figure.
My prayer is that, the rest of the world’s tourism fraternity will understand that Africa was instrumental to gradual transformation of International Union of Official Travel Organisation [IUOTO] to World Tourism Organisation [WTO] and now to UNWTO.
No African has headed the organisation and I must confessed that UNWTO has not added any value to Africa and its presence has been limited to its leadership visiting and meeting presidents and minsters for photo opportunities alone.
Africa needs a UNWTO Secretary General that would recognise training of the continent’s tourism administrators, travel and tourism journalists and introduction of country representative to member nations like all other United Nations agencies because that is the only way UNWTO will be relevant and remain relevant for years to come.