International travel and tourism industry issues, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) was on the agenda when His Excellency, Mr Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé, President of the Republic of Togo met with the Hon Minister of Tourism Walter Mzembi from Zimbabwe on Friday.
The Zimbabwe Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Hon Dr Walter Mzembi, who is the Zimbabwe and SADC-endorsed candidate for the post of UNWTO Secretary General that falls vacant in 2017, met with the Togolese Head of State, yesterday morning in the Presidential Palace in the Togolese capital, Lome.
Hon Mzembi, was accompanied to the meeting by the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Ambassador Stuart Comberbach, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority Chief Executive Mr Karikoga Kaseke and a senior Ministry official.
The visit to Togo comes as Minister Mzembi steps up his campaign to secure the top UNWTO post, and in the wake of his participation at a number of statutory UNWTO Regional Commissions where, as Chairperson of the Commission for Africa, he has been able to share ideas and experiences and to contribute towards the development of effective strategies designed to position tourism as a key vehicle and enabler of global sustainable tourism development.
In his discussions with the Togolese Head of State, Minister Mzembi first of all conveyed President Robert Mugabe’s gratitude to his Togolese counterpart for gracing and officiating at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in April 2016. He then reiterated the determination expressed by President Mugabe to explore ways in which the two countries could cooperate and to learn and benefit from one another’s experience. The Minister stressed Zimbabwe’s readiness to work with Togo in the areas of tourism development, product development and building on previous discussions, on assisting Togo in the establishment of protected conservation areas.
The Minister stressed the need to accelerate the implementation of such cooperation noting that Zimbabwe had been seriously affected by the El Nino-induced drought which had already caused significant loss of wildlife across the country. As a way of mitigating such losses and as a key component of the envisaged cooperation with Togo and with indeed other African countries, Zimbabwe was actively considering a programme of translocating live game animals into protected conservation areas beyond its borders.
The Minister confirmed the readiness of his counterpart, the Minister of Environment, Water and Climate, to dispatch a team of experts to Togo to familiarize themselves with the local habitat and to make an informed assessment with regard to the feasibility of wildlife translocation to designated conservation areas in the West African state. The team would also be able to advise on the possibility of replicating, within the region, the concept of multinational conservation parks such as the KAZA Transfrontier Park involving Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The Minister informed the President that his leadership qualities within UNWTO had been tried and tested by way of his chairmanship of the Regional Commission for Africa (CAF) from 2013 to 2015, noting that the Commission had unanimously renewed his mandate for another two-year term during the last UNWTO General Assembly held in Medellin, Colombia.
In his response, President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé said Minister Mzembi was clearly qualified for the job, and committed himself to supporting the candidature and to working to ensure additional support within the ECOWAS region.
The President emphasized the need for the African Union to reach consensus on the candidature and to unite in support of a single African candidate.
The meeting concluded with the President requesting the Minister to meet a team of officials from the Togolese Environment Ministry to work out a concrete plan of action with regard to an exchange of visits in order to implement the program of cooperation.
Later the same day, the Minister met with the Togolese Minister of Environment and Forests who was accompanied by the Commander of the Togolese Armed Forces, and agreed that, within the next two weeks, a team of experts from the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate would be dispatched to Togo in order to carry out an assessment of the local habitat and climatic conditions and to make recommendations on what species of wildlife would be suited for translocation from Zimbabwe to protected conservation areas in Togo.
Thereafter, it was agreed that a team of experts from Togo would be invited to Zimbabwe for further training in all relevant aspects of conservation and wildlife management at Mushandike Wildlife Park – including capacity building in conservation management, law enforcement and natural resource monitoring.
During the meeting, Minister Mzembi appealed to the Togolese Minister of Environment and Forests to support Zimbabwe’s proposal for sale of its ivory stock pile, to be tabled for consideration during the forthcoming CITES meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The Togolese Minister assured the Minister of his support and said that he would raise the issue directly with the Togolese Head of State within the coming days.
It is imperative to highlight that the highly respected Minister, has the requisite international statesmanship and qualities to lead the UNWTO as a suitable electable leader. In his previous conversations, he has maintained that “if I was responding to a routine job vacancy, I would confidently say I am most qualified on my own merit however this is an elective position with geopolitical considerations, therefore endorsements are key. I must hasten to say, this is not a competition for a job but a deployment, and the endorsements that I am seeking speaks to answering geopolitical aspirations, Africa in the first instance and what global tourism we want to see going forward. However, akin to all electoral competitions, whatever candidature emerges, should consider Zimbabwe, SADC and hopefully Africa’s candidate a serious proposition”.
Generally, there is a very positive acceptance of Dr Mzembi’s statecraft and bureaucratic competence for Secretary General of the UNWTO post. As an elective international civil servant position, which requires competent skills, it ordinarily involves a lot of interests, and Minister Mzembi has been around long enough to know where to take the organization in fulfilling members’ aspirations and expectations. The pedigree of his candidature goes beyond just advocacy, marketing and promotion of global tourism to a real international deal broking and statesmanship, which are the hallmarks needed to confront contemporary challenges that the tourism sector is facing. He, is a man that the world can trust, a man who can lead the organization in the direction of sustainable transformative growth and development.
Earlier Minister Mzembi delivered a personal letter from the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, His Excellency, Cde Robert Gabriel Mugabe to the Togolese Head of State.