The eyes of Africa and the rest of the world has been roundly fixed on the World Cup for the last month but on July 23rd, focus will shift and reside elsewhere as the 2014 Commonwealth Games is set to begin in Glasgow, Scotland.
With as many as 18 African nations set to compete for medals at the event, there are bound to be many from Africa watching with keen interest. Already, Africa’s leading sports channel SuperSport have announced the acquisition of broadcast rights of the competition and have set aside three dedicated 24-hour channels for the coverage of the competition with some of their preliminary TV ads suggesting that broadcast sponsorship rights have been picked up by GNC, a specialty retailer of health and wellness products.
Botswana, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia are all set to compete at the Games with Africa’s main thrust for medals expected to come from the swimming and athletics events.
While there are bound to be many interested in seeing Africa gun for some glory, it is starkly surprising that despite the scale of Scotland’s investment to host the event- running cost has been pegged at £523.6m with another £2bn invested in transport, health, hospitality and medical infrastructure-there has not been commensurate expectations in Africa and judging from the hype- or a lack of it-it is safe to say that not many people are looking forward to it. A logical thought could be that the continent, which is generally football-mad, is still recuperating from an excitement hangover after witnessing what was possibly the greatest World Cup this generation has witnessed. However, the rot runs deeper.
The lack of excitement is more intricately related to a notorious lack of proper preparation by many of the participating nations from Africa. Perhaps, it is fittingly ironic that the Commonwealth Games will occur right after the World Cup as this will help highlight an issue that has halted the development in other sports except football: a lack of adequate funding.
Many of Africa’s sports ministries devote a larger percentage of their resources and allocations to football and consequently under-invest in other sports thus creating an imbalance in development between the growth and development of football compared to other sports.
In Nigeria, for example, the football federation reportedly received financial allocations in the range of N2bn for the World Cup while the yearly budget for the Nigerian Cricket Federation is a meager N800,000 annually. Clearly, this lack of equitable investment- a problem common to most African countries- will continue to hurt the continent’s performances in other sports at global sporting meets as has been evidenced by perennially poor displays at the Olympics.
From an economic standpoint, it will be wise to create an enabling environment for the blossoming of other sports so as to adequately leverage on such interests- something which South Africa have done spectacularly given their investments in rugby, cricket and golf alongside its continuing investment in the local football league as well as grassroots football. It is crucial for the rest of the continent to follow the same model as while it is justifiable to invest a majority of allocated funds in the sports which the country excels in to maintain comparative advantage, it is also a smart move to develop other various sorts to pique interests of young sportsmen and women across such countries as well as develop the framework for what could become a financially viable sector of the economy.
The Commonwealth Games will see Africa secure a number of medals but whatever happens, the underlining story will yet again be that of unfulfilled potential for the continent. The process of reversing this anomaly rests on innovative thinking, purposeful execution but most of all, funding. (VENTURES AFRICA)