A Move In The Right Direction for Sports

By Alexander Johnson Adejoh

The success of Nigerian athletes in world sports has finally given the Nigerian Government and relevant stakeholders the nudge to formalise their commitment to the development of sports in the country.

Presented by the Minister of Youth and Sports, Sunday Dare, the National Sports Industry Policy document is a detailed analysis of the commercial potential of sports around the world, and the practical ways Nigeria plans to catch up over the next decade through public-private partnership.

According to the document, the mission of the NSIP is to “create an enabling environment for sports as a business sector within the Nigerian economy”, while the vision is to “promote health and wellness through mass participation, contributing to economic development and global recognition”. The implementation of the document will require an inter-ministerial collaboration, alongside the participation of other members of the federal government and key private sector players.

The document will be executed in stages, following a timeline from when it was formally presented in 2022 till 2026. The matter in question now is as Nigeria is on the verge of a change in government after the 2023 general elections, will all who are meant to play a major role in the implementation of the NSIP deliver on the objectives of the policy?

The NSIP has identified innovation and creativity as necessary factors in achieving social and economic development through sports. Alongside this is data from the education, manufacturing, media, and fitness sectors, which have the potential to contribute between 1.5% – 3% (approx. $7.5bn – $15bn) annually to the nation’s GDP. The goals of the NSIP are also in line with the development agenda of the United Nations 2030 SDGs and the African Union Agenda of 2063 mission in building the Africa We Want.

The NSIP lists ten major action plans and recommendations that were gathered over the course of four years by key stakeholders and participating members across several other industries. In this 10-point plan is a data-based review of the impact of sports in countries around the world and a detailed outline of how Nigeria will follow suit.

The main aim of the NSIP is to develop the ecosystem of sports in Nigeria by creating value and the right environment for businesses in the industry to thrive. The key stakeholders made up of members of government on the federal, state, and local levels, the national sports governing boards, and the engaged private enterprises have the most crucial part to play in executing their roles and responsibilities to deliver on the policy goals.

There are many ways the NSIP will favour sports businesses once implemented. The industrialization agenda of the policy is to address gaps in the industry that has hindered the growth of these businesses. Of the many incentives from the document’s “3 I’s strategy” are tax exemptions for a period of five years for investors in the sports value chain, land provision for sports and waved fees on those lands, and funding to support the rehabilitation and modernization of sports infrastructure.

For corporate organisations and private individuals investing in sports is a single digit loan interest rate incentive, and through the establishment of the Independent Athletes Welfare Fund (AWF) will also be an independent government grant where athletes that are representing the country can access training and educational support. These transformative agendas will support the innovative practices of companies in sports marketing, merchandising, entertainment, ticketing, administration, healthcare, law, broadcasting, among others.

It is not only important that these businesses follow up on the implementation of the NSIP but join the decision making table to contribute to the collected data that should make the execution of the strategies more organised. Sports business is big business that requires structure, dedication and commitment as we get closer to sports being one of the biggest contributors to the national economy.

Sports is multi-sectoral and the implementation of this policy will address gaps that have existed in education, trade, investment, media, communications, finance, culture, tourism, and the digital economy. For talent development, peace building and social inclusion, this policy has made room for the most neglected members of society; members of grassroot communities.

The NSIP recognises the need to use sports to provide access to these communities in form of gender inclusion, education programs, and the inclusion of the disabled and disadvantaged members of society. The construction of community-based cluster sports facilities in these communities will contribute greatly to the missing culture of sports, keeping youth off the street and engaged with healthier habits.

Youth development through sports provides the framework to educate, empower and build the capacity of young people, giving meaning to their lives and purpose to their passion. Through sports, Nigeria will not only be one of biggest exporters of sport talent in the world, but a global leader in the business of sports.