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Zimbabwe, Zambia Seal Deal to Host 2013 UNWTO Assembly

Zimbabwean and Zambian presidents, along with the Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), signed a trilateral agreement Tuesday to co-host the UNWTO General Assembly, which takes place in Victoria Falls and Livingston in August 2013.

Zimbabwe's Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi described the signing ceremony, held at the No-Man’s Land on the Victoria Falls Bridge, as historic, not just for the two countries, but the entire southern Africa region and Africa in general.

Zambia's Foreign Affairs and Tourism Minister Given Lubinda also hailed the agreement signed by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his Zambian counterpart, Michael Sata, and the UNWTO secretary general Taleb Rifai.

“This is the second time that the continent of Africa has been honored by the tourism fraternity of the world to host the General Assembly of the World Tourism Organization,” said Lubinda.

The two presidents also signed the golden book on tourism, which is open only to Heads of States who host the UNWTO. Both presidents were then honored as UN international tourism ambassadors for their role in promoting tourism.

The UNWTO General Assembly is expected to attract a significant amount of international business people and tourists.

Lubinda compared Zambia’s relationship with Zimbabwe to that of Siamese twins.

“Much as you may choose friends, you have no chance whatsoever of choosing neighbors. You have no chance of choosing who should be your brother or being your sister. And, in this particular case, Zambia and Zimbabwe are joined together like Siamese twins, and there is no way that Zambia can separate itself from Zimbabwe and pretend that Zimbabwe does not exist,” Lubinda said.

Mzembi told VOA his ministry has already received investment proposals worth billions of dollars ahead of the summit.

"We have potential investors who are willing to construct shopping malls, refurbish existing hotels and other business ventures worth billions of dollars," said Mzembi.

Victoria Falls Mayor Nkosilathi Jiyane is confident the town will be ready to co-host the 2013 UNWTO General Assembly come August.

Independent economist Daniel Ndlela says the United Nations World Tourism Organization has shown confidence in Zimbabwe though international visitors remain skeptical about the political situation in the country.

The last UNWTO General Assembly was held in Gyeongju, Republic of Korea in October 2011.