Africa has more finalists in the Mr Gay World competition than ever before this year with representatives from Namibia, South Africa, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe.

Coenie Kukkuk, Africa Director for Mr. Gay World told Mambaonline.com: “It’s a major development. It’s the first time that black Africans will participate, which sends out a powerful message of hope to LGBTI people in Africa.

“A message that there are role models and that one can live as a successful and open LGBTI person.”

Contestants representing Africa are Robel Gizaw Hailu from Ethiopia, Wendelinus Hamutenya from Namibia, Lance Weyer from South Africa and Taurai Zhanje from Zimbabwe.

Kukkuk added: “It’s significant that an Ethiopian delegate is participating. The capital city Addis Ababa is the seat of the African Union, so it sends a strong political message”.

Adding that space may be freed up for more contestants, he said: “Only those countries that have national competitions which are licensed to Mr Gay World are invited to participate. Due to space and logistics there is a quota for every continent and the four spaces allocated to Africa are now filled.

“However, should any other continent not fill its quota then applications for extra delegates will be considered.”

A South African had won Mr Gay World in 2010 and 2011 and South Africa will host the competition this year.

In December last year, shortly after he was crowned the first-ever Mr. Gay Namibia, Hamutenya was assaulted by men who demanded his winnings.

The 2012 Mr. Gay World competition will be held in Johannesburg from 4 to 8 April.

The competition says it aims “to advance national and international gay rights through education and public performance”.