Kenya’s long-distance athletes have for long set a good path for Kenyan sports in a manner that has not been replicated in other disciplines.
While the Shujaa National Sevens team, the Wanyama brothers, the Dunford scions and others have achieved measures of success, Kenya is not considered a traditionally great sporting nation.
Still, this infrequent success is generous proof that Kenya has the requisite talent to build its sports economy. Even though no body of knowledge exists on the real economic value of Kenya’s sports economy or the opportunity cost of underinvesting in sports, what is certain is that prioritising sports as an economic agenda could help alleviate problems such as unemployment.
The global sports industry, at one per cent of the globe’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), is estimated to be worth $600-700 billion (Sh60-70 trillion), according to KPMG’s The Business of Sports 2016 Report. This comprises the value created around sports events, infrastructure, hospitality, training and manufacturing, and retail of sports goods.
The European Union has elevated its sports sector to sacrosanct levels. A commissioned 2012 Study on the Contribution of Sport to Economic Growth and Employment in the EU as of 2005 found the sport sector to be able to turbo-charge the continent to its Europe 2020 goals. It found its rising sports sector to have a share in the national economies comparable to agriculture, forestry and fishing combined.
Its share of total employability was higher than its share of value added; it had the ability to foster a much-needed convergence across EU member states and had a multiplier effect of growth-enhancing specialization advantages all contributing to a little north of 450 billion euros (Sh58 trillion).
Tilting Kenya's status quo requires an intentional reevaluation of the role of sports in the economy, backed by a long-term blueprint, chaperoned by experts with the nous for a turnaround story. Only then can we gatecrash into the virtuous circle of sports value chain that includes sports properties (read KPL, KRU League, Stanbic Bank National Sevens Circuit, Clubs etcetera) that need to be made valuable; monetizing these properties through tailored rights management; creating an enjoyable fan experience through events management and content packaging for broadcasters' and sponsors' needs.
At the crux of such elevated conversation is funding the existing properties in Kenya.
While Government has in the past committed to support sports through direct funding, we have barely scratched the surface going by the immense potential that it presents. The best bet is a well-managed property that derives value for its followers and consequently attracts corporate sponsorships.
An archetypical model is the Stanbic Bank National Circuit Series, recently sponsored by Stanbic Bank. The package goes on to fund six clubs to organise the tournament (in six towns) that acts as the selection platform for the soaring national team for the coming season. Already in a long-term relationship with Kenya’s top-tier Mwamba RFC, Stanbic Bank’s aim is to continuously invest in growing and developing the game – helping build the next generation of rugby talent whilst growing the sport as a Kenyan mainstay.
Likewise, the institution works with partners to organise the Stanbic Bank Football Festival at Mathare Youth Sports Association, a football extravaganza bringing positively engaging with, inspiring and encouraging young boys and girls to stimulate impact in underprivileged slum communities in Nairobi.
But all these can be bettered if the sports economy ecosystem is improved by government, sports stakeholders and the private sector. Only then can we reap the fruits of a true sporting nation that Kenya is.
Senior Manager for Communication and Events, Stanbic Bank