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Tourism Minister Dr. Walter Mzembi has a vision for African tourism and the world

He wants to become the new top executive, the new Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

He wants to become the new top executive, the new Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). Competing with numerous candidates he is optimistic to be the new leader of World Tourism after the UNWTO General Assembly meets in September 2017 in China.

Zimbabwe’s minister of Tourism and Hospitality, the Hon. Dr. Walter Mzembi has been working day and night for many months, trying to earn the trust, show the courage and knowledge to lead this top post. Even though for some time he was the only contender for Secretary General, he never missed a meeting or an opportunity to show up anywhere in the world to contribute his fresh global approach of thinking.

He is African, he thinks Africa should be leading the next UNWTO, but he certainly is a global citizen. His wife had been on his site everywhere.


She is a biologist and comes from a simple family in Cuba. Mzembi’s children speak English and Spanish fluently in addition to local languages.

Dr. Mzembi knows very well the challenges his country, Zimbabwe has in the world.

He also knows this post is not about a country, it’s about a person and having a global approach. No country is too far, no conference to unimportant, Mr. Mzembi has shown up, and had contributed and often changed policies with creative ideas and a vision.

Almost unexpected he now got stiff competition. Other candidates show up months later and bank on political help by their country, on inside they had gained working at UNWTO in Madrid. Dr. Mzembi, however continues to make noise and is dominating the campaign.

The Zimbabwe’s Tourism Minister has revealed a plan that could provide Europe with tourists from Africa instead of migrants. Addressing a selected number of guests from around the world in the Spanish capital Madrid earlier in January and during the official launch for his bid to become Africa’s first United Nations World Tourism Organisation’s Secretary General, Dr Walter Mzembi noted that while terrorism and insecurity remain the major challenges facing the tourism industry, he could use his experience in the industry to stop Africans migrating to Europe for jobs and instead use the tourism industry to provide them with similar jobs they get in Europe that would turn them into tourists instead of migrants.

A Tourism Minister since 2009, Dr Mzembi, 52, a Member of Parliament for Masvingo South for the ruling Zanu-PF party, called for a ‘Marshall Plan’ to stem the flow of African migrants to the Mediterranean where hundreds of thousands have perished while trying to cross the seas to Europe. He said he would use the industry as a vehicle for peace, tolerance and cultural understanding as well as a poverty-ending tool. Tourism is a poverty-ending tool, a low hanging fruit and one that answers job creation,” he said.

Noting that the contemporary challenges facing the tourism industry were terrorism and insecurity, natural disasters, climate change and biodiversity terrorism (wildlife poaching), Dr Mzembi said if he won his bid for UNWTO Secretary General, he would use the leverage of the post to mobilise governments around the world to protect the industry against the scourge of terrorism.

This youthful-looking, articulate man is without doubt a very good ambassador of a country that the West has chosen to ignore or lambasted for its leader’s long reign and determination to hold on to the country’s land ownership scheme that has seen many white farmers deprived of what they claimed to be ‘their land’. In a period of just six years, Dr Mzembi has transformed the Zimbabwe tourism industry from earning US$200million a year to the current earnings of over a billion US dollars per annum. “…and we managed to achieve that with virtually nothing by way of funding.” He added: “It was overwhelmingly by way of creative thinking and a collective rebranding effort.”

Unanimously endorsed at the 27th African Heads of State and Government summit held in the Rwandan capital Kigali in July last year as the sole Africa candidate for the UNWTO post, Dr Mzembi said after the post being held by Europe for a record 46 years, Latin America for eight years and the Middle East for the last eight years, only Africa and Asia are yet to be accorded the privilege of holding the post. “Whilst acknowledging and expressing our sincere admiration and gratitude for the leadership and indeed the powerful legacy bequeathed by the afore-mentioned regions, we strongly believe it is now Africa’s time…” he said.


Mzembi believes that the candidature of Africa has a potential to ‘unleash the full potential of hitherto unexploited trade’ between Africa and Spain and more broadly Europe and the rest of the world. He argued that those regions should now “reflect much more on what the African candidature could achieve for them within the context of the ‘visit, trade and invest’ concept”. While not mentioning by name the candidature of Alain St Ange, the former Tourism Minister of the Indian Ocean island Republic of Seychelles, who resigned from his ministerial post to make a bid for the UNWTO job, Dr Mzembi blamed ‘unilateralism’.