Will sport benefit from N$50 billion pledged?

THE head of state recently hand-picked technocrats in the shape of the High Level Panel on the Namibian Economy to spearhead the revival of the economy, which has been on a downward trajectory, affecting various sectors and further damaging local and foreign investor confidence.

Yes, the economy – not just in Namibia, but countries worldwide, notably neighbouring South Africa are experiencing the same economic headache with solutions seemingly beyond reach.

Friends in both the private and public sector, it is no secret that sport is a multi-billion dollar industry. The question is how will those tasked with spearheading economic growth in the country ensure that both youth and sport benefit from the N$50 billion in investment commitments pledged during the recent Economic Summit. One other important consideration by the panel headed by chairperson of the President’s High Level Panel Johannes !Gawaxab is the construction of at least three state-of-the-art  football stadiums, so that Namibia can equally bid to host international sport competitions that attract world sport personalities, including elite world football clubs that would want to use Namibia as training base for future FIFA World Cup preparations, as in Qatar.      

Who knows, maybe some of the qualifying countries for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar will want to have their training base in countries that have similar weather conditions, and Namibia could be one of those countries, but its lack of world standard football stadiums will give no consideration to Namibia.

I know there are priority areas in the economy that need attention but equally the sport sector has a key role in transforming the lives of our sportspersons, including the youth who make up the largest percentage of the population.

Looking at industries one can perhaps suggest that we invest in local fabrics that can tailor sports gear for Namibian national teams, premier league clubs, rugby clubs, netball clubs, et cetera, while looking at getting markets from within the SADC region. These are all feasible proposals but the visible lack of a political will is an inhibiting factor.

How do we ensure as a country that our flagship football league turns professional and is able to attract foreign players? Surely the sport industry as enshrined in the various National Development Plans must have a slice of a cake in the billion dollar pledges made.

The panel has secured, so I read, local as well as foreign direct investment commitments of N$20 billion at the two-first day of the recent summit , with a further N$30 billion in the offing.

Sport lovers and administrators have on numerous occasions called on the private sector – but if institutions such GIPF and DBN who at the summit made impressive pledges why do we only rely on the banking and insurance institutions with links to South Africa to invest in our sport? It is time to have local investors bring in the much needed funds that will also see the establishment of a sport fund to sustain Namibian sports.

I am so impressed by football players in West Africa who after plying their trade in the English Premier League return home to construct hospitals, schools and stadiums in their respective regions.

All I’m saying is we need the visibility of local investors in sport circles and I hope that the panel for our economic revival will give full consideration to the sport industry and its infrastructure development.