First and foremost, I am proud of being a Ugandan. The last past couple of weeks have brought sporting excellence based on our display at world cup and continental platforms by our She Cranes and Uganda Cranes respectively.
This was, however, followed by huge discrepancies in tokens of appreciation from the first couple, but in individual capacities as Head of State and Minister of Education and Sports.
Without a doubt, the continued level of success of the Uganda Cranes is not one to be taken for granted. That the girls achieved this with challenges faced by netball in this country, such as inadequate funding, dilapidated facilities and administrative shortfalls, shows what a great feat their performance was.
Following an unclear bonus distribution model by government to reward returning sports teams and personalities, the most notable and significant in legacy would have been the athletics center promised after Stephen Kiprotich’s dash to gold at the 2012 London Olympics marathon, which till to date lies very far from completion.
Considering the sorry state of the netball facilities, the key decision-makers in sports would rather be in line with trying to secure land or get the government to explore building a state-of-the-art indoor or netball facility that can last a lifetime.
Also, decision-makers might want to explore the idea of offering tax holidays or exemptions on sports equipment; putting to bed an ownership row over Lugogo Sports Stadium; adoption of a clear futuristic sports policy; and acquisition of land through the Uganda Land Commission for development of worthy sports complexes, among others.
The marriage of the ministry of Education together with Sports is and will always be one of education largely suffocating sports as indicated in the numbers of the recently presented national budget for 2019/2020. The ministry was allocated Shs 3.28 trillion, with only Shs 26 billion allocated to sports.
Much as education and sports are interlinked, having them under the same ministry needs no astrology engineering master’s degree to figure out that this can’t work. These changes may not happen in our lifetimes and might require light years to take effect but I would think the start of the debate on these pertinent sport and national matters is long overdue.
A great start for debate would be for key sports stakeholders addressing their minds on a comprehensive national sports policy to allow for the self-sustainability of different federations in terms of preparations, operations and income generation rather than continue an inconsistent model of one-off tokens of appreciation to athletes till the next time they return on their knees for next handout.
Sport is a multibillion-dollar business all over the world that not only provides commercial investment opportunities but also an employment channel for numerous individuals, which shouldn’t only be measured by medals attained at international events but, rather, significant impact to athletes.
Case in point, South Africa attained only four gold medals at the 2012 London Olympic games after investing in a massive high-performance centre in Pretoria for athlete training. Nigeria had a worse outcome after it failed to attain a single medal at the same games even with the high-grade facilities in the West African sporting powerhouse.
However, and more importantly is the number of athletes these centers accommodate that are heavily employed in the sports industry and are earning enormous sums of money.
Closer to home, the recently-completed sporting architectural wonders of the Kigali Arena and Gahanga cricket stadium have fast become the best indoor and cricket grounds in East and Central Africa and are expected to not only provide grounds for participation but importantly give a worthy employment opportunity for numerous Rwandese.
With a narrative change from sport being a pastime activity to becoming a serious commercial and economic value addition avenue, sport doesn’t only have the power to bring people together but further avail an actual solution to the rampant unemployment of youth in this country.
The author is former Cricket Cranes captain and Ntare Lions League president.