“Sport has become a world language, a common denominator that breaks down all the walls, all the barriers. It is a worldwide industry whose practices can have widespread impact. Most of all, it is a powerful tool for progress and for development.” – Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary General during his address on the occasion of the ‘Second International Forum on Sport, Peace and Development’ in Geneva in May 2011.
The UN Secretary General emphasis on the role of sports in fostering economic growth and development cannot be gainsaid. I am writing this piece at a time when the country is still in a celebratory mood following our athletes’ sterling performance in the just concluded 15th International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) event that was held in Beijing, China. Kenya made history and emerged the overall winner by scooping 16 medals; 7 Gold, 6 Silver and 3 Bronze ahead of the usual competition’s front runners: Jamaica, United States, Great Britain and Ethiopia among others.
To cap the meticulous performance by the Kenyan team was Asbel Kiprop who not only won the 7th Gold but also became the first Kenyan to win a hat trick in men’s 1,500 metres. Julius Yego, the celebrated “YouTube” athlete made the nation prouder with his 92.72 metres Javelin throw that gave Kenya her first ever Gold in field events. When our sportsmen and women perform well in global sport competitions, ‘brand Kenya’ reaps big as a result of this positive global market visibility.
Kenya is depicted as a sports powerhouse. This lifts our image on the world map. We are known to be the home of world champions in athletics. Our success in international athletics events raises the profile of our country and elicits interest from potential tourists who visit and generate foreign exchange for our economy. The same can be said of volleyball, rugby and many others if well managed.
As a nation we need to invest heavily in sports to expect the kind of results that we got from #TeamKenya during the Beijing’s IAAF event and the Federation of International Volleyball (FIVB) Grand Prix 2015 in August.
What can we do to achieve our economic goals through sports? We must evaluate the role of sports in our economy. There is greater and urgent need to sensitize policy makers on the economic value of sports. It is sad to realize that in this day and age there is no data on the economic value of sports in Kenya. No one takes into account the economic value of sports to our nation’s prosperity. In England for instance, the economic value of sports is well documented. In a well researched and comprehensive report dubbed the “Economic value of sport in England”, the country was able to not only examine the value of sports but to also implement some key findings of the report to help better sports sector which accounts for more than 1.9% of England’s Gross Value Added representing over £20.3 billion.
In United Kingdom, Gross Value Added (GVA) is used to measure the contribution of each individual producer, industry or sector to the economy’s GDP. The sports sector has been given the necessary policy and material support that it needs to flourish and contribute positively to economic growth and development.
In developing countries like Kenya where unemployment is considered a ticking time bomb especially among the youth, investment in sports would help create employment opportunities by keeping them busy with sporting activities. This will help in cutting down on idleness and its adverse effects. Some of our youths who are idle are endowed with sporting talent that if nurtured would help them earn decent livelihoods.
Failure to harness these talents among the youth is what eventually makes up for vices such as drug abuse and crime. Therefore, a flourishing sports sector is a source of employment in the economy. From back office to field officiating, sports will offer jobs in the economy. This strategy, if implemented through the devolved units, would have a huge impact on the problem of youth unemployment in the country.
In terms of economic impact and broader economic value, it is evident that sports and sports-related activities make a substantial contribution to the economy and to the welfare of individuals and the society. In order for our economy to reap the full benefits of the sports sector, we should commission a study that will seek to establish the real economic value of sports and establish ways in which the findings of the study can be incorporated in our national economic development blue print to offer solutions to our economic challenges. This is the only way we can unravel the hidden treasure that sports is to our economy.