The global sports industry is increasingly reflecting the trends in the world economy, with a growing shift towards emerging markets.

The football world cups of 2010 and 2014 are being held in South Africa and Brazil respectively, and the 2016 Olympics is being staged in Rio.

The success of South Africa has given hope to other countries in the continent looking to host international sports events as a way of boosting their economies and progressing with major infrastructure projects.

This month, Nigeria is hosting the Fifa U-17 World Cup, with Dr Emmanuel Igbinosa of the nation’s sport commission saying that such sporting events can help “encourage inward investment into developing nations”.

Now fellow west African nation Ghana is also hoping to use the sports industry to kick-start its economy.

‘Power of sport’

Abdul-Rashid Hassan Pelpuo was recently appointed Ghana’s minister of youth and sports. His policies are a mix of encouraging grass-roots sport, opening new facilities and hosting major events.

As a former boxer, he believes in the transformational power of sport and speaks passionately about what an expanded sports industry can do for Ghana.

“What is important to us, as a people, is the opportunity to use the power of sport to deliver lasting economic, social and health benefits to our our citizenry,” he says, speaking to the BBC at a Global Sports Industry forum.

“We are looking to secure competition events and increase tourist inflows and business revenues to our cities and the country.

“It means sport can influence the national development agenda, with major events bringing long-term benefits and legacies, including city and country branding.”

Sport can also boost the fledgling corporate hospitality and sponsorship industries in the country, he believes.

‘Private sector’

Mr Pelpuo says it is the responsibility of the government to provide a basic sports infrastructure, but that it also needs investment, from inside and outside the country, to allow the sports industry to reach its full potential.

“We need to provide an enabling environment for the private sector to develop, and for their entrepreneurial spirit and investment initiatives in the sports industry,” he says.

And at the centrepiece of his development plan is creating a new sports bill to allow for this public-private partnership.

Ghana is looking to bid for the rights to host the 2015 All-Africa games, knowing that it will cover 22 disciplines. If it succeeds, it hopes to develop modern infrastructure for sports such as basketball, volleyball, track and field, swimming and cycling.

“We want to position sports event bidding at the centre of our agenda to bring economic prosperity to our nation and cities,” the minister declares.

“But we appreciate that as we attract more events into the country and increase vibrancy in our sports industry, there will be a need to balance the needs of our communities with the interests and ambitions of our private sector, all within the context of our market economy.”

‘Iconic status’

As part of this broader remit, Mr Pelpuo wants to use sport not only for economic and business reasons, but also for talent identification, skills development, social cohesion and fighting poverty.

As part of this drive, Ghanaian sports people – such as Chelsea footballer Michael Essien – are being drafted in as mentors to the country’s youth.

Michael Essien grew up in Ghana’s capital, Accra, where he played for his local club Liberty Professionals. He has revisited the country with charity Right to Play since his move to London.

“Michael has been fantastic for us. We want to tap into the iconic status of sports heroes like him to help us reach out and fight poverty,” observes Mr Pelpuo.

International loan

After the 26th African Cup of Nations, held in 2008 in Ghana, the country’s central bank took a look at the economic effect of the tournament on the economy. The results were encouraging.

As a result, a study group has been set up to advise on bidding to host the 2015 All-African Games, which could provide some confidence to an economy which has experienced recent difficulties.

Earlier this year, Ghana learned it was to get a $600m three-year loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), amid concerns about the impact of the recession on poorer countries.

The country needs funds to reduce its budget deficit and support its currency, after being hit by high food and fuel prices, an energy crisis and heavy spending in the run-up to last year’s elections.

But Ghana is the world’s second-biggest cocoa producer and Africa’s second-biggest gold exporter, and is also set to become the continent’s newest oil producer.

“We still have to impress on the rest of the world that Africa is safe and that business and investment opportunities should be followed up,” says Mr Pelpuo.

But he points to the wave of publicity surrounding Ghana’s recent success in the Fifa World U-20 Championships as an example of how sport can work wonders for a small country’s image.

“One of the great things about sport is that we can use it to sell Ghana overseas, and also use it as a driving force to do business with other countries.”

Source: BBC

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