• Ikechi Uko

Why Dr. Mzembi Should be the Next Tourism SG

I have been involved in trying to get An African elected as the next SG of UNWTO. Initially it was not important but on second thought it became a very important issue for me.

This is because in all my years in Tourism I have noticed the non commitment of most Governments in Africa to Tourism issues. The same Governments are willing to splurge money and Red Carpet to host international tourism Officials and will pander to their needs. So a huge agency like UNWTO will help AFRICA with over 1.2 billion but receives less than 60 million Tourists to get out of the tourism pit.

As the largest member group in UNWTO AFRICA should not be only Spectators. For once we have and had the best candidates. I was against St.Ange running against Mzembi for the Obvious reasons that AFRICA will split its 10 votes. But St. Ange is a politician and at 64 years of Age feels this is his best chance to go for it. He has meticulously planned for it over the years and felt shortchanged when AU took a position on Mzembi before he threw in his hat.

He actually resigned his job as a Cabinet minister to run for SG. I know he is a man with immense Tourism connections and if he had the AU mandate will win in the first round. Everyone I spoke to thought highly of hm as the best Candidate.

Knowing that a 2 Candidate scenario will cost AFRICA the position some of us went to work to get things sorted from the Tourism side. At the POATE expo in Uganda we tried to broker a meeting of the two men.

Because we cannot force them to step down I wanted to get them to agree on a second round plan that will see them support whoever gets through to the second round.

We tried to no avail to get a sit down between the two Candidates. After our meeting in Kampala I flew to Accra Ghana to meet with Mzembi who had come with President Mugabe for Ghana at 60 celebrations.

I laid out our proposal and why the two candidates should meet. We cannot force anyone to step down but we can engender Cooperation that is needed for the second round of Voting.

I suggested that they meet in Port Harcourt so we tidy things up. I was told with Picture evidence that the Two candidates met at ITB BERLIN. Which seemed okay for me.

At that point I felt they should work together for the second round. But things started getting Nasty. The gloves came off and outside forces as always with anything AFRICA got involved. The two candidates were being blackmailed by any means possible. Eventually AU got involved and Forced out the much loved and respected Seychellois Candidate St.Ange.

For me as an African everyone should now support Mzembi and accommodation has to be made for Alain St.Ange. AFRICA has to win it. St.Ange should ask his backers to work with Dr. Walther Mzembi. AFRICA deserves this. We need this for the sake of the Continent.

This is the turn of African and Dr.Mzembi will make a fantastic Secretary General.

I like the assessment below made by Respected Geoffrey Lipman:

So then there were 5 – More Questions than Answers for the UNWTO Executive Council when voting in the new Secretary General on Friday.

Alain St. Ange ran a valiant uphill campaign for Secretary General of UNWTO. It fell not on his ability or vision, but on the fact, that another candidate from Africa, Walter Mzembi has the support of the Members of the African Union – and that included Mr. St. Ange’s country of Seychelles.

In the end, it was the determining factor, and as the race got down to the wire it is no surprise that all the stops came out. It’s pity is that St. Ange’s vision on issues like climate, safety or small island needs, as well as his vitality, will be lost.

But one should not make the mistake of seeing Mr Mzembi simply as a political play. He is young but seasoned in a tough socio-political cauldron. 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. His plans for UNWTO are well thought through, bold, visionary, and yet at the same time soundly grounded in the organization’s structural reality.

It is why he presents a very attractive candidacy. And no one can doubt that Africa with its massive emerging population and development challenges would get a massive boost. He faces tough opponents.

Marcio Favilla is a committed Tourism leader, having served his country as Deputy Minister of Tourism and then as an Executive Director at UNWTO. He is a good man who understands the opportunities and challenges facing the organization in increasingly uncertain times. He is an insider but with significant outside experience. His program reflects this. Like the two previous Secretary Generals, he has been in the leadership of the organization for many years. His plans are sound and his commitment is total. He is a very safe pair of hands.

The Dho/Vogeler ticket is something 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.

Hence the idea of 2 for one. 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.

But of course, here I must declare an interest, having conceived ST-EP, perhaps before its time, as a measurable, MDG delivery vehicle, in the spirit of today’s SDG’s ….. Finally, there are the relatively unknown candidates.

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. His “glocal” 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.. He rightly argues for a full UN state membership of UNWTO – from 150 to some 200 and especially the “free riding” Anglo-Saxon community. He majors also on increased collaboration with private sector and NGO interests through an extension and upgrade of the Affiliates. He presses the right industry buttons on security and sustainability, and it remains to be seen how deep his vision penetrates.

Aside from questions that have been raised on the levers that are being pulled by the campaigns, the real question is can someone with limited knowledge of the wide scale and scope of the UNWTO’s activities, as well as the global relationships, strengths, and weaknesses, really drive the change advocated in increasingly uncertain times.

And of course, for me, there iis the fundamental underlying question – which one of all the candidates, really recognizes that if Climate Change is eXistential how do we make the deep changes to respond to that stark reality. Because as Naomi Klein says “That Changes Everything”

So many questions. Happily, we will know the answers by the end of the week.

Ikechi Uko is a Nigerian travel business consultant, travel promoter, tourism development expert, media consultant, journalist and author.

#HospitalityandTourism #OpinionandAnalysis

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