Southern Africa Sports Expo: Raising the Profile of Sport

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By Andrew Bonani Kamanga

Exhibition events, shows or expos are great and very useful events for any industry. In most cases, these mega-events bring together industry experts, scholars, existing and potential customers to share new ideas, concepts and experiences of various products and services.

Expos can contribute significantly to business development and growth for various small and medium enterprises as well as big business conglomerates. In the sport, recreation, leisure and fitness industry, expos are very important not just at a national level but also at regional level.

In South Africa and other regional cities and hubs throughout Africa, various expos are held all-year around. The economic sectors range from agriculture, aviation, air-travel, mining, energy, road, rail and medical fields.

It is at these expos that companies and organisations come to benchmark their products and operations against world-class standards.

It is also at these events where you see people who are serious and hungry for improvement in their various fields. As the wise elders have aptly stated, “Learning does not end. In most cases, the ones who are not serious about improvement in their sectors do not even bother to turn up.”

The sport, recreation, leisure and fitness industry in southern Africa, when harnessed with tourism, has potential for serious growth and ability to generate meaningful business and employment for millions of unemployed youth in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

In this connection, the commercialisation and globalisation of sport is continuing at a frightening pace. The global sport industry is now serious business worth close to US$20 billion every year.

Southern Africa desperately needs a piece of this pie.  However, without a viable sport industry capable of competing with other regions of the world, citizens of Southern Africa, will, sadly, for now, remain spectators in this game of wealth creation through sport.

Not many people will agree with Donald Trump matters of political ideology but he has got fine excellent business acumen.

Apart from owning some of the finest real estate properties in the world, he is also into the golf business, building some of the finest golf courses and ancillary facilities in the world.

He has realised that most top executives tend to mix business with pleasure and most deals are done on the golf courses.

By the time that contracts are signed and press conferences organised, agreements in principle are in most cases, reached at the gold club. When it comes to new wealth in the world of sport, China is breaking almost every record that stands, even in the construction of new golf courses.

Even the Chinese Super League has become so lucrative such that Chinese clubs are competing for world-class players and winning against more established outfits in Europe, North and South America.

Furthermore, China and other Asian countries have literally taken over the sports apparel and goods manufacturing industries. The competition that China and Asia are providing to the rest of the world is intense.

In this connection, Africa and Southern Africa, despite current limitations, has never been known to shy away from competition. Southern African economies too are recording rates of economic growth that cannot be sneered at.

The foundations and basic requirements for of the development of a lucrative sport, recreation, leisure and fitness industry are there.

However, there is a dire need for the exchange of ideas, information and experiences through expos so that companies can accurately gauge the market, undertake feasibility studies and market research for business development. 

There is a need for Southern Africa to prove that it can also be home for its own big sport brands as well learn from those from abroad such as Adidas, Puma, New Balance, Speedo, Technogym and many others.

It is equally important for sports authorities to know and be able to converse almost on a daily basis with people who are in the business of sports facilities construction. It is obvious that there is very little that can be achieved without infrastructure.It is, therefore, evident that expos help to provide reliable linkages and connections for business partnerships and development.

It is extremely vital that Southern African national and regional sports authorities adopt a business approach to sport development.

There is too much focus on the on-field performance side of sport to the detriment of the business side, which comprises the hard core bread and butter issues.

It is very good for Southern African countries to win medals at the forthcoming Olympic Games and world championships but is more important to have a recognised and established sport, recreation, fitness and leisure industry which is generating meaningful employment and wealth as well as transforming the lives of Southern African citizens.

A Southern African sports expo could go a long way in terms of marketing and raising the profile of the region as a whole. Such an event would prepare the region to host high-profile events such as the Sport Accord organised by the Global Association of International Sport Federations.  It is not expensive and neither is it rocket science! Food for thought for the powers that be!

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