Zimbabwe Tourism Minister Mzembi on a U. S. Diplomatic Charm Offensive

Relations between the United States and Following Zimbabwe nomination and the Southern African Development Community’s endorsement of the candidature of Dr Walter Mzembi to the position of Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) which falls vacant in the last quarter of 2017, the mercurial Engineer, has is in the United States of America on a diplomatic charm offensive where he is reported to be making significant inroads into the Washington power matrix.

On Monday 4 April 2016, accompanied by the Zimbabwe Ambassador to Washington DC Amon Mutembwa and Senior Officials, he paid a courtesy call on the US State Department where he met Todd Haskell, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and other Senior Officials in the Department.

According to the programme seen by this paper Mzembi later on addressed a highly subscribed Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) meeting on “Destination Africa: The Future of African Tourism”. As guest speaker he met a conglomerate of US private sector, business and public policy experts on the tourism sector.

Corporate Council on Africa, a Washington Think Tank brings together public and private sectors in the USA and seeks to promote business and investment between the United States and Africa. CCA is the premier American organization devoted to US-Africa business relations and includes as its members, more than 180 companies, which represent nearly 85 percent of total US private and public sector investments in Africa. CCA’s members range from America’s smallest to the largest corporations. It represents a diverse pool of industries from Africa’s most promising sectors, including agribusiness, capacity building, energy, finance, health, ICT, infrastructure and security. The Corporate Council on Africa is a key resource mobiliser for conducting successful business in Africa. It works closely with governments, multilateral groups and businesses to improve Africa’s trade and investment climate and to raise the profile of Africa in the U.S. business community.

Most importantly, recently, CCA acquired the Africa Travel Association (ATA), a major organization that deals with promotion of tourism relationships between Africa and US. Mzembi is a three-time past President of the then New York based Association. The CCA President and Chief Executive, Mr Stephen Hayes is understood to be consulting Mzembi on the future structure of ATA under its new CCA configuration. According to the source close to the deliberations, Mzembi impressed the CCA capacity audience with several companies having offered to work with him in exploiting opportunities in Africa. He spoke convincingly on the need to configure CCA-ATA in a manner that responds to the tourism growth trajectory and aspirations of African countries. Minister suggested the consummation of a structure that dovetails into African Union Agenda 2063 with a recommendation on the devolution of emerging CCA-ATA structure into an African Secretariat based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Currently, Africa’s global tourism market share oscillates from three to five percent, and Mzembi shared his vision for a double digit market share for African tourism by the year 2030 on the back of a cocktail of proposals he has advanced to the AU in his capacity as the UNWTO Regional Commission for Africa Chairperson.

Later on in the week, Mzembi headed for Dallas Texas where he is a participant and an invited guest to the WTTC 16th Global Summit. He participated in a Ministerial Dialogue with other Ministers around the globe and Chief Executive Officers of leading hospitality brands and other service providers. The  Minister will further participate in Public and Private Business Policy discussions from an international, regional and national perspective. He is expected to address the Zimbabwe Diaspora community in Dallas Texas who have constituted themselves into a Diaspora Chamber of Commerce and have expressed interest to promote Zimbabwe as Honourary Consuls General. Later, the Minister will round off his visit in New York where he will address a meeting of diplomats accredited to the United Nations where he will share his vision on tourism development.