United States has urged Zimbabwe and Zambia to use the forthcoming United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UN-WTO) General Assembly as a springboard for economic growth, good governance, and sustainable wildlife conservation. The U.S. Ambassadors to Zimbabwe and Zambia expressed this view during a cross-border bicycle ride to promote tourism and environmental conservation in the Victoria Falls-Livingstone area May 21-23rd. Alot of the world has a negative perception about the safety and security in Zimbabwe and the region. It is through efforts such as these undertaken by respected and passionate diplomats that helps to encourage a closer look at the reality on the ground.
“We wanted to shine the light on both sides of the Zambezi River in advance of the UN-WTO Assembly to both encourage Americans to come and explore this part of the world and to emphasize the connection between conservation and tourism…and economic development,” the U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Bruce Wharton, told a press conference soon after meeting Chief Mvuthu and the deputy mayor of Victoria Falls at a local hotel.
“Our government is deeply interested in promoting strong democratic institutions in both countries and in supporting strong sustainable economic development. I think tourism has got to be one of the drivers of both Zimbabwe’s and Zambia’s economic development,” stated Wharton.
The Bike Across Borders initiative was implemented jointly by the American Embassies in Harare and Lusaka with the two ambassadors, Wharton and Mark Storella, taking the lead.
The 20th UN-WTO General-Assembly will run between August 24 and 29 with events scheduled for Victoria Falls and Livingstone on the Zambian side of the border.
|Fast facts about UNWTO:|
|Date||24th to 29th August 2013|
|Venue||Victoria Falls & Livingstone|
|Membership of the UNWTO||156 States, 6 Associate members, 2 Observers|
|Secretaries General||2010–present, Taleb Rifai (Jordan)|
This will be the second time Africa is hosting the event after Senegal in 2005. The two diplomats were confident the convention would be a success.
“I see very much that on both sides of the border you face the same kind of challenges and the same kinds of opportunities,” said Mark Storella, the US ambassador to Zambia
“I was very gratified to see during this visit that the two sides are cooperating to prepare for this international congress that is coming up. The UN-WTO Congress that is coming up is a fantastic opportunity for the two countries to cooperate and advance together.”
The envoys led a delegation of cyclists, including Zimbabwean comedian Carl Joshua Ncube and ZiFM DeeJay Lorraine Bgoy, Zambian Minister of Tourism Sylvia Masebo and beauty queen Miss USA Nana Meriwether, who was on a private visit to Zambia.
Zambian youth ambassadors Humphrey Mwila (aka Cactus Agony) and Luyando Haangala (Lulu) bicycled and entertained the group with a new song written specifically for Bike Across Borders.
Among other places, the bikers visited the Livingstone museum and the national parks on both sides of the border, learned about snare clearing and endangered vultures, and met with disabled handicraft makers and local chiefs in Livingstone and Victoria Falls.
For Ambassador Wharton, it was his first chance to see the Zambian side of the Victoria Falls.
“Livingstone is bigger than I thought it would be; I’m very impressed with it. The view of Victoria Falls is different on this side of the river, and people have been really friendly. (We have) had tremendous support from the Zambian police and the people,” said Wharton, who cycled on a Zimbabwean-assembled bicycle called the Buffalo.
“I think a lot of Zimbabweans would call it a black horse or black beauty. It’s a very simple bicycle and it’s very strong and beautiful. I am happy to ride the sort of bicycle that the people have been riding in Zimbabwe for decades,” said the U.S. diplomat.
Local officials pledged to continue efforts to preserve natural resources.
“We have got the machinery to look for diamonds, but our first priority is to conserve animals because animals have made us what we are. Even our communities are aware that we have to conserve this God-given gift that we have,” said Patricia Mwale, deputy mayor of Victoria Falls said.
“We are geared more than ever before because one thing we know after this event is that Victoria Falls will never be the same again.”
According to the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, Americans make up the largest group of non-African international tourists to Zimbabwe.
Date: 28 May 2013