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Mzembi carries Africa’s hope

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TOURISM and Hospitality Industry minister Walter Mzembi (pictured) hopes to complete the journey he began last year by landing the secretary general’s post of the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), when executive council members vote today in Madrid, Spain.

BY NDAMU SANDU

Walter Mzembi
Walter Mzembi

Mzembi goes into the race with the backing of the African Union (AU), one of the largest blocs with 10 of the 33 members of the executive council which will choose a successor to Jordanian Taleb Rifai, who is leaving at the end of the year after two terms at the helm.

The AU endorsed Mzembi at a meeting last year and has been imploring member countries to rally behind the candidate to enhance chances of landing the post which has eluded African nationals since the first general assembly in 1975.
The endorsement of Mzembi had begun at the Sadc level in March last year.

Mzembi enters the race emboldened after Seychelles withdrew its support for Alain St Ange in favour of the Zimbabwean tourism minister “in line with established practices governing the endorsement process for candidatures within the international system under the AU and Sadc frameworks”.

The election will test the resolve of African countries towards attaining a common vision. Will all the countries vote for him considering the differences that have emerged over St Ange’s candidature? However, Africa has in the past buried differences among member states. The single candidate policy has delivered for AU after Togolese Gilbert Houngbo was in January elected as president of the International Fund for Development. He assumed the reins on April 1.

Africa has also endorsed the candidature of Ethiopian Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as director general of the World Health Organisation, ahead of elections during the World Health Assembly which runs from May 22 to 31.

Despite that, it won’t be smooth sailing for Mzembi as he has to negotiate his way past Márcio Favilla (Brazil), Jaime Alberto Cabal Sanclemente (Colombia), Zurab Pololikashvili (Georgia) and Young-shim Dho (South Korea) for the right to lead the UN tourism agency from 2018 to 2021.

A candidate has to get 17 votes to win the post, subject to approval by two thirds of the General Assembly members at its meeting in September. If no candidate amasses the required votes, the top two will go for the next round.

This could be the reason why Mzembi visited all the 33 executive member countries. Other executive council members are drawn from Europe (10), Middle East (3), South Asia (2), Americas (5) and East Asia (3).

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