To the layman on the street nothing much came out of the recent State of the Nation Address (SONA) regarding the country’s evolving sports in industry. Even with the Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) that President Ian Khama highlighted then, already experts in the sports fraternity are trying to figure out exactly what is in there for them.
Sports is one of the fastest growing industries in the country, and has potential to create a lot of employment, especially for the unemployed youth.
Yet Khama did not have a lot to say about the flourishing industry in his eagerly anticipated speech, except only to highlight a number of recent international achievements by some of the country’s most successful athletes. Khama also touched on the recently opened Francistown Sports Complex as well as some sports tourism events held in the country recently. Besides that, there was little a sports enthusiast would find inspiring in what he said about the trade.
Nevertheless, the Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) chairman Solly Reikeletseng has contrasting sentiments, saying that the youth can still brace themselves for business opportunities and revenue that will be generated from the ESP.
“When it comes to SONA, achievements that have been made in sports were recognized. Sport continues to play a major role in uniting the nation and our athletes are now ranked as major achievers in the world,” Reikeletseng said, mentioning the recent feats by the likes of Nijel Amos, Amantle Montsho and Isaac Makwala. In addition, Reikeletseng said young people have reason to be excited as the ESP will come along with infrastructure and facilities that support local sports.
“There are two major areas in which the youth stand to benefit. They have now recognized that sports is not just a game and they can actually earn a living out of it. There are also sports administrators who have recognized that they can work full time in the industry.”
With regards to business, Reikeletseng said there were vast opportunities. He gave examples All Kasi and Dlala, which are both successful local sports apparel companies. “We also have young business people advertising at the national stadium. There are also sports publications and websites being run by young people. Over and above this we have an increasing number of sports agents in football and we expect to have more in the Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) who are now professionalizing,” he said.
Moreover, the BNSC chairman said they already have self-sustainable sports codes like the Botswana Cricket Association (BCA). He added that other codes that stand to benefits from the ESP when they are professionalised include rugby, tennis and professional boxing.
“When we speak tourism by value, sports is the number one generator of revenue. Everytime the likes of Amantle Montsho run, millions of eyes are focused on Botswana for those few minutes.” Reikeletseng said this is the reason they often have one individual from the Botswana Tourism Organisation (BT0) whenever they organise big sport events. “We have to create an environment where sports is self-sustainable. We also need tax reforms so that business is attracted to sport to augment money spent by government in the industry.”