Safari Rally significant boost to Kenya's, tourism, economic growth

President William Ruto speaks during WRC flagging off at the KICC, Nairobi, on March 28, 2024. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard] 

The Kenya Safari Rally is the world’s most watched of the 13 leg World Rally Championships, with just 15 percent shy off this year’s target of 100 million views.

This year’s Safari Rally had a global broadcast that spanned over 170 nations through more than 50 international television channels, showcasing its unparalleled appeal. This worldwide exposure serves as a significant boon to Kenya’s tourism sector, enticing countless visitors eager to immerse themselves in the enchanting allure of the Magical Kenya.

The Kenya Kwanza plan envisages a nation where talents pay, through a deliberate and intentional project to monetise talents through the Talanta Hela initiative. This strategic move aims to harness sports and various talents to fortify our economy and carve out a substantial slice of our GDP, emulating the success seen in first world economies.

Safari Rally ranks as one of the all-time international sporting events to ever happen in Kenyan turf with biggest direct economic benefits, miles ahead of the 1987 All Africa Games that comes close.

The first assignment by Sports CS Ababu Namwamba was the lifting of the ban on Kenya football by FIFA, which has now led to the country having the rights to host AFCON, another great moment to witness the economic impacts of sports in powering the Kenya Kwanza economic plan. Safari rally offers a great dry run to ensure better preparations for the best AFCON in the history of the game and in terms of economic fever to Kenyans.

The January leg Rally Monte in France plays a vital role in showcasing the Alps, and leads to an influx of tourists during and after the rally, directly attributed to the publicity created by the motorsport. February follows with the Rally Sweden, the only pure snow and ice fixture in the WRC 13 legs. For the first time in 26 years, our leg took place in March, to once again coincide with Easter holidays as it has traditionally been. The economic windfall from the rally is nothing short of transformative, with an injection of billions of shillings into the local economy. Hotels, leisure, fuel, transport and other local businesses benefitted a big deal, with an estimated value of about KSh10 billion in Total Tourism Internal Demand, KSh4 billion in direct labour income, another KSh10 billion in value addition and over KSh20 billion as output.

The rally also attracted several foreigners and technical crew who arrived 10 days earlier and took more holiday time after the rally, spending over KSh3 billion on accommodation, transport and food.

Looking forward, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme envisions Nairobi as the world’s sports capital by 2028, a goal that seems all the more attainable with the Safari Rally serving as a precursor to even grander sporting spectacles like the Africa Cup of Nations. President Ruto’s call to the private sector to deepen their investment in the rally underscores its lucrative potential, promising substantial returns on sponsorship.

The Safari Rally not only spotlights Kenya’s capacity to host international tournaments but also serves as a catalyst for the launch of the Talanta Motorsport Academy, aimed at nurturing future champions in the world of rally racing.

This narrative not only celebrates the event’s immediate success but also heralds a brighter, economically buoyant future for Kenya through sports and talent development. The ball is now in Namwamba’s court to reuse this preparedness manual for future sporting events.

[Agwenge is a data specialist]