BNSC red tape scare away investor
Botswana Football Association (BFA) could lose a once in a life time opportunity of erecting a high level football academy in the country due to Botswana National Sports Commission’s (BNSC) labyrinth bureaucracy.
BFA is in advanced talks with British chemical engineer turned financier and industrialist, James Ratcliffe who is interested in financing the building of a sports academy but now fear he may be snatched away by Namibians who have been courting him for the same. Ratcliffe has frequented the country on three occasions, precisely Lekidi Football Centre, since MacLean Letshwiti assumed the BFA power seat.
The main reason for the visits, WeekendSport has learnt was to discuss the setting up of the academy as well as to see the possible piece of land where the academy would be set up. BFA CEO Mfolo Mfolo says the idea was to build the facility in the idle space behind the National Stadium stretching to the UB Stadium.
“We have met with assistant minister Kefentse Mzwinila together with the permanent secretary Mogomotsi Kaboeamodimo and they were happy with the idea. Now we have approached BNSC to give us the land but it appears it would take time. The main reason is the land in question is zoned for various sport codes but we cannot let this opportunity just pass us by,” Mfolo said in an interview this week.
This state-of-the-art facility according to the site layout will include: accommodation for up to 80 people; indoor training facility; fully equipped gym; Restaurant for both academy and public meals. High tech media conference centre that can seat 80, 3 x full size top of range FIFA approved turf fields, artificial turf 5-a-side fields, boardroom and office space and on site medical services (doctor and physiotherapists).In addition the facility will help upgrade the netball facilities as well as install a multi-sport zone for public use.
The facility will not only be used for football but it will be a commercial facility which would be used to generate money to run itself. Ratcliffe, through his chemical company INEOS Capital Limited will foot the bills of the facility solely. The objectives of the academy are to give young footballers from Botswana the opportunity to become better footballers at a world class facility in their home country. Further it will allow for the best players to travel to Lausanne, Switzerland to complete a further 2 years of academy training and education which will avail them the opportunity to be professional footballers in Europe.
The importance of the facility cannot be underestimated, according to the BFA CEO. “It will give us quality players, secondly we will give young players an opportunity to penetrate the European market more so the investor has recently acquired a team in Switzerland’s top flight league,” Mfolo highlighted.
The grand plan was to start the ground breaking ceremony of the multi-million infrastructure in June this year, subject to BNSC availing the land. “The Namibians are also luring him to their side, but he was interested in Botswana but if this bureaucracy drags on he might change his mind which will be a huge loss to us,” Mfolo pointed out. This week Mfolo had to give convincing presentations to the BNSC board in a bid to push them to avail the land. “They will give us their response in the best possible short time,” he said.
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AFRICA’S RECOVERY: Sports as game changer
The year 2022 witnessed unprecedented phenomena. Several Africans- Gotytom Gebreslase, Sharon Lokedi, Victor Kiplangat, Tamarit Tola and many others- swept the World’s marathons records.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting control measures implemented in several countries, led to many high-level sports competitions being cancelled or shelved, the Dakar 2022 Youth Olympic Games was moved to 2026.
Founder and Executive Chairman, African Sports and Creative Institute, Will Mabiakop, says the inability to hold traditional and amateur sports events have had a serious effect on public health overall, including mental health, sparking a revolution whereby athletes began to talk more openly about stress, mental overload and performance anxiety.
“Africa is home to the fastest growing economies before the crisis, no longer on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). COVID-19 deepened interdependence between SDGs, making them harder to achieve, especially SDG 10 (reducing inequality) and SDG 5 (gender equality_ as the pandemic had a disproportionate impact on poorer countries, and heavier burdens (such as care work) fell to women.”
Mabiakop stresses that as policymakers contemplate actions to speed up recovery and build resilience, they must argue that sports and creative businesses should play a central feature in this effort.
“The sports economy worldwide is estimated at 5% of GDP, but only 0.5% in Africa. If exploited, Africa’s sports and creative industries can offer policymakers innovative solutions. Especially, as regards job creation, and providing employment to the 15 million people entering the job market annually.”
HOW CAN THE INDUSTRY DO THIS?
By leveraging the two-for-one concept: past studies shown that a 1% growth in the economy delivers a 2% job increment in this sector (these ratios are calculated using data from 48 African countries and adjusted to the reality of the sports economy in Africa by the authors). There are between 30 and 50 job types, in sports and creative industries, respectively. These jobs do not fade away with the first major shock.
Mabiakop indicated that policymakers can use these industries to tackle multiple crises- jobs, poverty, and climate risks. Sports diplomacy- defined as communication, representation and negotiation in or through the prism of sports- has proven effective in building inclusive and cohesive societies. Moreover, sports and the creative industry can support better mental health and well-being, both important for productivity.
“Policymakers can also be true to the game by leveraging culture and tradition to celebrate identity and reap commercial value in sports, textiles and jewelry. Creative sectors allow deeper connection with culture, are not easily copied and provide great economic potential.”
He said supporting grassroots sports has powerful distributional effects. “Fortunately, technology has made reaching wide audiences easier, generating higher rates of success when talent is discovered.”
However, Mabiakop held that potential pitfalls must be highlighted. “First avoid build it and they will come policies with infrastructures denuded from the rest of the ecosystem. Like the many sports stadiums left largely unused.”
“Policymakers must remain mindful of how these sectors move the needle in human capital development. Also, align the requisite public policies needed for progress from grassroots participation to professional sports, and even to international sporting events. They should also support investment instruments to render these sectors performant.”
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