The value of sports to the economies of African countries remains an unexploited resource that needs prioritisation and concerted efforts to harness its full potential. Developed countries consider sports a key driver of socio-economic development. This underscores the increasing role of sports as an instrument for positive change and transformation of livelihoods.
Just as Africa is home of most highly-prized minerals, the continent is also endowed with natural sports talent in football, rugby, basketball, athletics, cricket, boxing and hockey, among others. This endowment is not gender-biased. In Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia are home to some of the finest athletes that the world has ever produced.
Nigeria, Côte d’ivoire and Ghana are some of the African countries known for producing talented footballers who ply their trade in the most competitive football leagues in Europe. These elite European football leagues have played a key role in the internationalisation of the labour market in European football. Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe are known to be favourite spots for the sport of cricket.
Nations use active participation in sports as a springboard for promoting community health and productivity, peace-building initiatives, encouraging fitness aimed at reducing medical expenses associated with lifestyle diseases, promoting national cohesion and integration and inculcating discipline in the country, among others.
The impact of sports on the aggregate economy is purely multi-dimensional. Talent scouting in counties offers a good ground for initiating inter-county sports events that would be instrumental in fostering peace, national cohesion and reduce inter-ethnic conflicts in counties.
The Vision 2030 Sector Project Progress report highlights some of the latest investments in sports aimed at promoting talent that includes construction of the Kenya Academy Sports, refurbishing and rehabilitation of three county stadia in Uasin Gishu, Kisumu and Mombasa counties.
The refurbishment was carried out in two national stadia in Nairobi County. This is a step in the right direction but more projects should be undertaken in the other counties.
The desire to bring on board sustainable funding for sports programmes at both county and national levels is a game-changer. This should be undertaken through corporate sponsorships.
The growth of sports in India is credited to the partnerships between business community and celebrities who worked hand in hand to create a sports hype that remains formidable at the international stage, particularly in cricket.
There is need for a caucus of the private sector and government to shore up support for sports programmes. There is also need to offer tax incentives to corporate sponsorships and to encourage public-private partnerships for the development of sports infrastructure in counties.
This will create avenues of collecting more taxes by broadening the tax base. Sports has globalising tendencies marked by rising media coverage, labour specialisation and influx of management consultancies that bring taxable economic activities into the tax bracket.
The other frontier for developing sports talent is through foreign direct investments supported by our foreign missions in the Ministry of Foreign and Diaspora Affairs spread across the world.
The building of stadia and other sporting facilities is a capital intensive venture that developing countries may not sustain because of competing budgetary needs. Foreign investors from countries where Kenya has diplomatic presence can come in handy.
The goodwill that the new government has ushered in will realise our immense potential in sports if we can allocate adequate resources for development of sports, make nurturing of sports talent an integral part of our education system, provide equal opportunities for participation to all citizens and have professionals manage our sports in a transparent and accountable manner.
This is the only way we will cut down on the growing threat from “muscle drain” that supply developed countries with talented athletes from African countries.
Dr Salad comments on topical issues. [email protected]