Chihana begs private sector:’Pump more money into sports’

Malawi’s Sports and Youth Development Minister,  Enock Chakufwa Chihana,has implored the private sector in Malawi to pump in more financial support into sports in order for the country to produce a high level quality of athletes to compete at the Commonwealth games.

Chihana made the appeal in London on Thursday in an interview with Nyasa Times, saying the private sector must help the government’s effort in building the country’s sports to the next level.

“I plead with the private sector in Malawi to dig deeper in their pockets and help the government in developing the country’s sports industry so that in the near future we can produce athletes of high quality that can compete at the highest level,” said Chihana, who had just attended the 6th Commonwealth ministers meeting at Banquetting house in Whitehall, London.

Chihana, son of the country’s legendary intrepid freedom fighter the late Chakufwa Chihana, said government alone cannot manage to develop the sports industry to an  international acceptable levels because there’s not enough resources in the state coffers.

Chihana: The corporate world should help bankroll sports

“A vibrant sports industry is very important not only because it can put our country on the map but because sports play a big role in keeping the youth busy and disciplined. At the same time sports is the best faculty to unite people from all backgrounds,” said Chihana.

He said the sports industry in Malawi needs more financial assistance in order to develop adding that Parliament only approved K70 million for this year’s budget against a backdrop of a huge financial deficit.

“One international game cost not less than K16 million to organise and yet this year’s budget only provided M70 million for this year’s budget, that is not enough considering that we need to develop sports from the grassroots level.”

“At the moment our representation at the Olympics is not good at all and that tells it all that we need to develop our sports industry tremendously. But to do that, we need to start developing athletics staring from primary schools and to be able to do that we need the private sector to help us,”  said Chihana.

Shifting Focus

The sports minister who is also a Alliance for Democracy (Aford) Member of Parliament for Rumphi Central said Malawi like all commonwealth countries must shift their focus on sports from merely using it as a tool for competition but rather use it as a means to unite populations.

“As a country we must shift our focus from the elite athletics and international competition, and move to the important part where we must look at sports’ contribution to physical activity and what we can achieve in terms of unanimity development and peace building among our peoples,” said Chihana.

He however warned national sports bodies to be prudent in the way they handle finances if the private sector is to inject more money into sports saying no organisation would be interested to give money to any sports organisation knowingly that their monies will end up down the drain.

Said Chihana: “I would like ask all national sports bodies in Malawi such as Football Association of Malawi (FAM) Netball association of Malawi (NAM) and the Olympic Committee among others to adopt accepted standards in the way they run their organisations to make sure that they attract tangible financial assistance from the private sector.”

“Poor governance in sports administration undermines the integrity of the sports industry, added the outspoken minister. Sports administrating bodies must show that they are transparent and account for every penny if the private sector is to be encouraged into pumping their money,” stated Chihana.

Devised strategy

The minister disclosed that he has asked officials from the Sports and Youth ministry to device a working strategy in order to facilitate a smooth operation of sports development in the country.

“As government we would like to develop a strategy that will help to develop peace-building and promote unity among our people. Sports, for example, football is one discipline that brings people from all backgrounds together,. People of different religious beliefs, political affiliation or cultural beliefs come together to support one team and they become united in that quest,” said Chihana.

The minister said he would like to meet up with all the stakeholders to kick-start the campaign of bringing Malawians together through sports and athletics.

“As government, we want to strengthen our relationship with all national sports bodies. We need to work together in our quest to develop sports in our country,” he said.

Ministers’ Summit

Chihana was part of this year’s Commonwealth Sports Ministers summit which was held in London on the eve of the Olympic Games where they discussed how sports can contribute to advancing development goals.

The Minister is in London to attend the ongoing Commonwealth games with a delegation which is being led by Malawi’s First Gentleman, retired Chief Justice, Richard Banda, himself a former athlete and former captain of Malawi national football team.

The meeting was opened by Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma and chaired by British minister of Sports and The Olympics Hugh Robertson, MP.

Welcoming delegates, Robertson said that sport remains a key part of the Commonwealth’s identity. He added: “The benefits of physical activity and the importance of sport as an effective instrument for social and economic development are well-recognised, and Commonwealth Sports Ministers Meetings provide the appropriate forum to share experiences.”

Peace Building

During the half-day meeting, Chihana and his counterparts drew attention to how Sport for Development and Peace can be used to address social and economic challenges and promote global public health.

The Commonwealth sports ministers reviewed comprehensive policy recommendations developed by the member the Commonwealth states to help governments, sports bodies, intergovernmental organisations and civil society organisations in strengthening sport-based interventions.

The ministers and senior officials from 43 Commonwealth nations strongly endorsed a set of guidelines which will assist governments to strengthen Sport for Development and Peace approaches, and incorporate sport-based activities into development programmes.

The sports Ministers also agreed to collaborate on drafting another set of guidelines focused on governance in sport, and asked the Commonwealth Advisory Body on Sport to work with member governments on integrity issues.

Chihana said under the right circumstances, sports can convey important democratic principles such as tolerance, solidarity, co-operation and respect.

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