WHILE President Mugabe and Zanu-PF have officially wrapped up another successful trip to the UN General Assembly, perhaps one of the most significant developments was the Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry the Honourable Walter Mzembi’s keynote address to the Africa Travel Association conference at New York University on Monday September 19, 2016.During his presentation Minister Mzembi not only used this wonderful opportunity to humbly express his gratitude to the African Union for collectively endorsing his groundbreaking bid to become the first African Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNTWO), but also to reinforce the vision that is the historical and cultural focus of his monumental campaign.

Minister Mzembi eloquently stated “My Vision is for a UNWTO which is responsive to member state aspirations for a global tourism that is inclusive, integrative, tolerant, responsible, empowering, sustainable and an effective tool for public diplomacy”

The AU endorsement Minister Mzembi has received is a testament to his robust body of work which is not confined and restricted to the parameters and borders of his native Zimbabwe that he loves and defends with all his heart on a daily basis, but in his strategic capacity as the UNTWO Regional Commission for Africa Chairperson.

This platform provided Minister Mzembi from August 24th-29th 2013 in conjunction along with his counterpart in neighbouring Zambia the Honourable Dr David Phiri, the good fortune of hosting the 20th UNTWO conference at Mother Africa’s most breathtaking landmark Mosi-oa-Tunya, this stemmed from a bid waged by Minister Mzembi and Dr Phiri in South Korea that convinced the UNTWO Zimbabwe and Zambia were more than up to the task of organising this event with the utmost professionalism and sophistication.

What may come as a complete shock to Africans at home and abroad was Minister Mzembi received an all-out endorsement, from the President and CEO of the Corporate Council of Africa Mr. Stephen Hayes who said, “Dr Mzembi has been twice president of the Africa Travel Association and he is the current chair of the UNTWO regional commission for Africa with the requisite leadership competences to lead the world tourism body. He is highly qualified and has demonstrated clear policy for global tourism.

 We are proud of him as a dynamic leader with a transformable agenda that will drive sustainable tourism development. Africa as a collective is contesting this post for the first time and it is important and it is important that this Minister has our full support. At CCA we are very much behind you Walter”.

One can only imagine how Minister Mzembi felt to hear a gentleman who the US Department of Commerce in 2008 presented with their highest honour the Ron Brown Leadership Award (named in honour of the late Commerce Secretary under the Clinton Administration) and more importantly a recipient of the Phelophepa Humanitarian Award the highest honour of South Africa’s largest foundation the Transnet Foundation which is chaired by none other than Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Another glowing endorsement came from Dr Kristin M. Lamoureux who is an Assistant Dean at the Tish Centre for Hospitality and Tourism at NYU who stated, “We are joining the UNTWO as an affiliate organisation and we will support you Dr Walter Mzembi”

Minister Mzembi along with the entire AU and Africans in the Diaspora who will give additional mileage and unconditional support to this epic and monumental campaign, have decided to embark on this uncharted Pan Africanist and International Journey, at a moment in history when Tourism accounts for 5 percent of the world’s GDP, 30 percent of the world’s exports of services, 235 million jobs worldwide. There were approximately 980 million global tourists in 2011 and it is projected that there will be in the neighbourhood of 1,8 billion international tourists by 2030.

The same year Minister Mzembi and Dr Phiri made world history as UNTWO hosts the World Bank released its report entitled Tourism in Africa Harnessing Tourism for Improved Growth and Livelihoods, their conclusion was African countries can compete with other tourist rich nations of the world regions if they can effectively plan for and integrate tourism into their economies.

 What must never be forgotten is that outgoing US President Barack Obama took it upon himself to bar Minister Mzembi from entering the White House in 2009, when the Minister was the zanu-pf representative for the 1st official GPA/inclusive delegation that was on a US-EU tour in an effort to re-engage the West, and acting on the advice of Zimbabwe’s most bitter detractors in his administration excluded President Mugabe and zanu-pf from sending representation to the 1st US Africa business forum two years ago.
 If anyone wants to question Minister Mzembi’s diplomatic skills and acumen, all that is required would be to do an objective analysis of how he handled this extremely disrespectful gesture, which has paid off especially when we take into consideration the Minister will be addressing the 2nd US-Africa business forum that will be organised by the Africa Business Roundtable, Washington Group Media, Africa 24 TV, Eyes on Africa and Invest Africa.

Since the exclusion of Zimbabwe occurred the same numerical year it was their turn to chair SADC and the AU, what should not be taken for granted is how Minister Mzembi maximized potential by using all diplomatic mediums afforded to him to convince the west, excluding Zimbabwe from any forum of this magnitude would be an error beyond description.

Because so-called African Americans on a mass level are so intellectually compromised by the historical and cultural disconnect to their homeland and origin, those who are contributing Minister Mzembi’s once in a lifetime campaign, must make parallels to key developments in our collective struggle for justice liberation and human dignity inside US borders.

Minister Mzembi’s campaign to become the 1st African born Secretary-General of the UNTWO is on par with not only President Obama’s election and re-election, but Thurgood Marshall’s appointment to the US Supreme Court in 1967, L Douglas Wilder becoming the 1st so-called African American Governor of Virginia the state where are ancestors landed as chattel since reconstruction, and lastly when Hiram Revels became the first so-called African American to serve in the US Senate in 1870 on the heels of chattel slavery in the US.

 The real reason why Minister Mzembi is being showered with so much praise is not only because he is so truly deserving, but because of the ability he has demonstrated to run the Tourism and Hospitality Ministry of a government under crippling and debilitating sanctions.

What Minister Mzembi can look forward to when he emerges victorious is a staff 110 full time members at the UNTWO headquarters based in Madrid, Spain, and logistical support from logistical support from eight committees inside the UNWTO.

Those committees are as follows The Programme Committee, The Committee on Budget and Finance, The Committee on Statistics and the tourism satellite account, the Committee on Market and Competitiveness, The Sustainable Development of Tourism Committee, The World Committee on Tourism Ethics, The Committee on Poverty Reduction and the Committee for the Review of Applications for Affiliate Membership.

Minister Mzembi will be taking over an organization that represents 157 countries, six territories and over 500 affiliate members representing the private sector.

For far too long Tourism has been made synonymous with prostitution and blue collar crime, especially in Africa the Caribbean and Latin America. It is our historical obligation to send a son of Africa to Madrid passionately obsessed with reversing this degrading trend once and for all.

This generation of Africans had better prepare to tell their grandchildren and great-grandchildren where they were when the Honourable Walter Mzembi became the first son of Africa to become Secretary-General of the UNTWO.

Obi Egbuna Jnr is the US Correspondent to The Herald and External Relations Officer of ZICUFA(Zimbabwe-Cuba Friendship Association).