05 April 2013
Zimbabwe has asked its neighbours, including South Africa, to help it fund a prestigious UN summit at Victoria Falls later this year.
Zimbabwe is turning to other African countries, including South Africa, to raise money to host the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly in Victoria Falls in August. It became clear during a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday that the government would not be able to provide the required $11.2-million in funding.
Information gathered by the Mail & Guardian this week indicated that Zimbabwe Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi, who has been to several countries to market the event, which Harare sees as an opportunity to revamp its battered image and attract investment, was due to travel to South Africa this week to look for funds to host the event to avert potential embarrassment for the country.
Mzembi said he could "not discuss the country's shopping list in the media", but confirmed that Zimbabwe was seeking "capacity-building" assistance from its neighbour.
But sources close to the preparations said that, among other requests, Mzembi would ask Van Schalkwyk for an increase in the number of South African Airways flights to Zimbabwe as Air Zimbabwe would not cope, and for the possibility of other guests being accommodated in South Africa. It was not clear who would pick up the cost.
The government was expected to disburse USD $6.5-million from its own budget, but nothing has been paid out. Instead private companies Mbada Diamonds, Econet and Telecel have stepped in to help. The Zambian governmnet has budgetted KR32.3 million (about USD $6.5 million).
Mbada has promised USD $2.5-million, including paying for a publicity blitz on international media platforms. So far the company has disbursed USD $600 000. Besides this contribution, Mbada is also going to fund the opening ceremony, including the venue, logistics and meals.
Zimbabwe obtained a $150-million loan from the China Import-Export Bank to refurbish infrastructure, including airports, roads and hotels, ahead of the event, although most of the work is behind schedule and some projects, including building a new convention centre with a seating capacity of 4 500 in Victoria Falls, have been abandoned.
On Tuesday, the Cabinet failed to commit resources to the event after it was suggested the $6.5-million would come only when diamonds had been sold. Finance Minister Tendai Biti has made it clear that the conference is not among his funding priorities.
To get things on track, Mzembi has now hired a South Africa professional conference organiser after attempts by sections of government to use the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair Company were rejected by the minister. The minister has also engaged the Conventions Africa consultancy to help to raise funds. The company managed to source the $2.5-million from Mbada.
Conventions Africa spokesperson Susanna Makombe said this week the consultancy was confident it would raise enough funds for the tourism conference as it was now targeting the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.
The consultancy has been given clearance by the UN tourism organisation to raise the money.
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