By Gift Phiri
Zimbawe ICT bosses are pulling out all the stops to use a networking event for tech entrepreneurs and investors here to market its tourist hotspot, Victoria Falls, in a bid to boost the number of visitors.
From Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) director-general Gift Machengete to ICT minister Kazembe Kazembe, the top government officials are using all the resources at their disposal to unfurl an unprecedented advertising campaign to lure delegates at the ongoing high-level meet-up of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Study Group 13, to visit Victoria Falls again, tell their colleagues about the spectacular falls or convene future meetings here as Zimbabwe’s economic crisis hammers one of the country’s biggest industries.
The influential Chaesub Lee, the director of the United Nations agency ITU and his delegates, who are booked into the luxurious Kingdom Hotel, have been the major target of the campaign by the top Zimbabwe government officials, keen to attract cash-flush tech tourists to spend money on hotels, meals and souvenirs in the country’s most popular attraction, Victoria Falls.
Soon after his arrival for the Study Group meeting, including a round robin of meetings over new mobile communication technology, Lee was taken for a tour of the falls by ICT ministry secretary Sam Kundishora, guided on a walk along the Vic Falls “rainforest” footpaths and watched in awe as millions of litres of water plummeted into the Zambezi River below, with the plunging curtain of water creating clouds of water vapour that soaked and thrilled the ITU boss.
Lee and his team also got from government a special tour of the Vic Falls Bridge, built in 1905 — a journey through 100 years of Victorian engineering to the heart of Cecil John Rhodes’s vision of a Cape to Cairo railway.
The ITU boss was given a light-hearted but informative tour including the history of the bridge, magnificent views of the rapids, rainbows and majesty of the Vic Falls and Batoka Gorges.
He was also treated to a bungee jump up-close, but declined to do the four-second freefall into the 111-metre gorge.
At a welcome dinner organised by government for the ITU Study Group 13 held at the majestic and top-dollar A’Zambezi River Lodge — the only hotel with a river frontage and jetty site in Victoria Falls right on the banks of the Zambezi river — Machengete treated Lee and his delegates to a fantastic a-la-carte menu at the prestigious Amulonga restaurant and drinks at the Zambezi Cocktail Bar right into the wee of the night.
And the who-is-who of Matabeleland North was there; from State minister Richard Moyo to his lieutenants, Kazembe, his secretary Kundishora, officials from the ICT ministry and other senior government officials to give weight to the Vic Falls advertising campaign.
Speaker after speaker promoted the majestic Vic Falls to Lee, who was accompanied by ITU rep for southern Africa Chali Tumelo, standards experts from governments around the world, the private sector, academia and civil society, ICT industry actors and stakeholders.
Machengete talked up Zimbabweans’ hospitality and the significance of the Vic Falls.
“In Zimbabwe, we have a saying that, when you want to welcome a visitor, you slaughter a chicken, when you want to welcome a brother, a sister, a relative, you slaughter a goat; but when you want to welcome a friend, someone dear and special to your heart, a colleague — you take them to Victoria Falls and share a meal with them in Victoria Falls — the most beautiful corner of the country, our very own wonder, our most adored, revered and priceless attraction — our special place,” Machengete gushed.
Yesterday, Lee was taken on a game drive by Machengete to a Victoria Falls farm which has the largest game concentration in Africa, boasting over 2 000 free ranging animals and the Big Five game.
Right from the official opening of the ITU conference, Kazembe also talked up how the “laid back natural environment offered by the Vic Falls will provide the ideal setting for Study Group 13 experts to advance their work in coming up with new standards to enhance an electronic communication ecosystem.”
“I urge you all to work diligently into the night during the week so that you can spare some time during the weekend to visit the mighty Victoria Falls and enjoy the ‘Smoke that Thunders’.
“Victoria Falls offers so many activities, that I shall not attempt to pre-empt but I am pretty certain will inspire you,” Kazembe said.
There are reasons to believe the push will be a success.
Lee on Monday was waxing lyrical about the falls, and the hospitality he has enjoyed.
“You have the spectacular Vic Falls, you have a very nice place. I have never seen such beautiful, gorgeous scenery like the falls.
“I would love to get a small piece of Victoria Falls to take it back to South Korea.
“If I can have such a fall, please allow me to have it, even a small piece, not all of it. But I don’t know how I can move all this to South Korea,” he chuckled of his home country in his official remarks to the conference.
“We usually have our meeting in Geneva, but this is a great place to have this meeting,” Lee said. DailyNews