OUTGOING United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Secretary General Taleb Rifai endorsed the African Union (AU) candidate for the UNWTO SG post Eng Walter Mzembi as the likely candidate to win the forthcoming UNWTO election for a new secretary general in May.
Speaking at a gala dinner event hosted in honor of minister Mzembi in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa Wednesday night, Rifai said he was confident Mzembi would win the election.
“Whatever happens in May (the month in which the UNWTO election will take place), for me you are already a winner….you have already won, “ said Rifai.
“What you have done and what you have achieved, diplomatically, for your country as you have traversed the world on your campaign program is simply unprecedented.”
The race for the UNWTO SG will see various tourism officials from at least seven countries locking horns in what is perceived to be the most bruising battle in the history of the world’s leading tourism body elections.
Amongst the participants are Mr. Vahan Martirosyan of Armenia, Mr. Márcio Favilla of Brazil, Mr. Jaime Alberto Cabal Sanclemente, Mr. Zurab Pololikashvili of Colombia, Mrs. Young-shim Dho of the Republic Of Korea, Mr. Alain St. Ange of Seychelles and Zimbabwe’s minister of tourism Walter Mzmbi taking part in the election.
The dinner, held under the auspices of the 59th session of the UNWTO’s Regional Commission for Africa – chaired by Minister Mzembi – was attended by African tourism ministers, African Ambassadors accredited to the African Union and Ambassadors of all UNWTO Executive Council member states.
Apart from Dr. Rifai, other UNWTO guests included Executive Directors and the Regional Director for Africa, Ms. Elcia Grandcourt.
Also in attendance was Mr. Wei Hongtao, Vice Chairman of the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA), who had traveled to Addis Ababa to participate in the first ever High-Level Meeting on Chinese Outbound Tourism to Africa.
The AU Commission was represented by Deputy Chairperson Dr. Kwasi Quartey, of Ghana, who, like Rifai, was fulsome in his praise for the Zimbabwean Minister.
Urging Africa to remain fully united in its support of the candidate unanimously endorsed by all 54 African Heads of State and Government, Dr Quartey predicted victory at the forthcoming election, enthusing that with his qualifications, professional experience and his very evident passion for tourism, Walter Mzembi would serve UNWTO with distinction, completely justifying the faith and confidence reposed in him by the entirety of Africa’s political leadership.
In his presentation, Dr. Mzembi also appealed for a unity of purpose and action as he reminded guests that no African has held the UNWTO post since the inception of the organization in 1957.
Urging his African colleagues not to fall prey to the blandishments and machinations of others determined to divide Africa and undermine the prospects of an African victory, Dr Mzembi invoked the determination of African leaders to overhaul the entire United Nations system – specifically the Security Council where Africa, constituting the largest bloc of member states still has no permanent representation.
African leaders have long pushed for a fairer and more equitable international system, one which accords Africa its rightful place and which recognizes the right of capable, competent and qualified Africans to be deployed to leadership positions within that system.
Mzembi said that his bid for leadership of the UNWTO, and the resounding endorsement he had received from Africa’s leaders was fully aligned to that noble objective.
The election will produce a Secretary General-elect, whose name will then be submitted to the next Session of the UNWTO General Assembly, scheduled to take place in mid-September in the Chinese city of Chengdu.
The new Secretary General will assume his or her office at the UNWTO Headquarters in Madrid on 1 January 2018, for an initial mandate of 4 years, renewable once.