NAIROBI, Kenya, June 11 – The Government is set to inject billions of shillings into establishment of sports academies across all the 290 constituencies from the next financial year which begins in July this year.
This is based on the ‘Osotsi Bill’ of July 2018 which requires the Government through the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Heritage to establish a sports academy in every constituency. This is expected to be staggered over a four-year period to provide ample time for establishment of supporting infrastructure and programs.
Undeniably, the socio-economic benefits of sports and its positive impact on economic, health, social and cultural aspects on individuals, community and society cannot be gainsaid. As a matter of fact, sports have proven to be a major source of employment and foreign exchange earner for Kenya. In the same line, there is evidence of inadequate investment, lack of scouting and nurturing of talent in the country.
From the Osotsi Bill, the envisaged Constituency Sports Academies will help identify, nurture, and develop talent at the grassroots. Section 33 (4) of the Sports Act provides that the function of the Academy shall be among other things to establish and manage sports training academies and this is the body through which the funds shall be utilized.
A parliamentary committee on establishment of sports academies in every constituency chaired by Narok North Member of Parliament Moitalel ole Kenta has in a report to the National Assembly proposed that the Ministry of Sports and Heritage trains sports professionals as one of the ways through which to impart soft skills in preparation for the construction of the facilities.
The committee has further proposed that the Sports and Education ministries collaborate with a view to enhance sports facilities in schools and colleges. All these efforts are laudable and point to the realization that structured sports management in Kenya is the cog to professionalizing talent identification and development.
However, the current Council of the Kenya Academy of Sports as constituted needs a review. Currently, Paul Tergat who is a renowned and well-revered athlete heads the Council.
Other members, except those from the Ministry of Sports, Sports Kenya, National Treasury and Attorney General’s Office are Tegla Lourupe, another respected and globally acclaimed runner and UN Peace Ambassador.
The other athlete sitting in the Board is Humphrey Kayange a prolific former rugby player and organic chemist. While these deserving athletes are highly qualified for the positions, key positions remain unfilled. Also sitting on the Board is Catherine Ndereba, a former marathoner and Agnes Oluoch, a representative of Paralympic sports.
The Sports Act, 2013 requires that there should be four other persons appointed by the Cabinet Secretary on nomination by; the sports organizations recognized as the national coordinating bodies for the promotion and development of high performance Olympic, Paralympic and Deaflympics sports in Kenya; and the national multi-sport sports organization that is responsible for the adherence to all the codes for sports and recreational bodies.
This is where amendments to the Act need to be made especially given the wide mandate associated with the Academy such that appointment as a Council member does not necessarily have to be pegged on their having a sports background.
In addition, since beyond sports talent identification, nurturing and development the mandate of Kenya Academy of Sports extends to promotion of research in sports, in collaboration with institutions of higher learning, national sports organizations and other stakeholders it is important for such Board positions to be filled. The Act requires that two persons who have experience in the management of training Academies, corporate sector or sports be incorporated in the Board.
While the idea to develop sports talent at the grassroots is noble, it is important to ensure that key positions for strategic institutions expected to spearhead such are well resourced. Talent identification and development is a process requiring various support services and activities some of which are technical in nature. If proper attention is not given to the policy direction from a fully constituted Board some envisaged outcomes and goals may never be realized.
Sports management in Kenya continues to come under sharp focus as sportspeople and enthusiasts clamor for professionalism and clear management structures to ensure talent development and profitability. In developed countries sports is one of the areas in which governments invest heavily with a view to ensure that youth are continually engaged, and their potential harnessed. Professionalization of sports is not just a purview of government given that sports disciplines themselves require proper and efficient management.
Since there is intent and goodwill from government to begin creating an avenue for talent growth, sports federations should follow suit and save their members the constant disorganization that mars their elections and subsequent management. They should be at the forefront championing for collaborative efforts between their members and the government to ensure that they enrich some of the development programs being rolled out.
Simon Mwangi is a Development Communications Specialist.