How tiny Botswana got to the top

Harare – Africa is a sport-loving continent but which has sadly had to contend with repeated failures on global level far too often.
In many instances, the failures are attributable to lack of funding and poor structuring of sport as an industry.
The lack of a systematic formula to develop and fund African sport is perhaps the major cause of the continent’s continued poor performance on the global stage.
To succeed in inter-continental competitions, the formula is simple: put money in sport, structure its administration properly and scout for young talent that can be well-trained for the future.
It is not all doom and gloom though for Africa in inter-continental sporting events. There have been some successes such as the South African rugby team as well as golfers from that country, Nick Price from Zimbabwe, Maria Mutola from Mozambique, Frankie Fredericks of Namibia and a few other world-beaters here and there.
But what is striking is that in most instances, our world-beaters are usually individual athletes. It seems in team sports, Africa is simply not progressing.
While this points to a deficiency on the structuring of our sports industry, it also means we should use that comparative strength in individual disciplines to nurture success for Africa.
Take the example of Botswana.
Botswana realized that with a population of just two million people, it would never produce a glut of stunning athletes. So it started concentrating on particular sports.
The most talked about investment was in football, when the little country’s soccer team sent shockwaves throughout the continent by qualifying for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations tournament. We all know they did not do well at the tourney, but the mere fact of qualification demonstrated what the power of good organisation can achieve.
But a more stunning achievement was that of Amantle Montsho who won a gold medal in the 400m at the World Championships two years ago. And then on top of that, to put the icing on the cake so to speak, Nigel Amos won silver at the London 2012 Olympic Games to get Botswana’s first ever medal at the world’s most prestigious sporting event.
The Confederation of Schools Sport Associations of Southern Africa (COSASA) president, Steve Bothasitse, believes that governments should run programmes for sports in a way that identifies and grooms talent from an early age. Bothasitse uses Botswana as a template of the benefits of such programmes.
He explains: “The Botswana government runs a programme for sport in schools that is reaping the benefits across the country. In 2012, the government poured 67 million pula into sports; the 34 sports codes schools get 500 000 pula for primaries and another half a billion for secondary schools sport.”
Accordingly, African governments should pour a lot of money in to sports. Funding is an important ingredient in the development of sports the world over.
Sports ministers from across the African continent should spend money on more deserving areas and sports is one of those areas
Bothasitse also believes that private corporations need to be persuaded to support government initiatives and sponsor sporting disciplines.
He goes on to say: “Companies are also mandated to sponsor specific sports codes. For us to come here the Botswana government funded us with 1.2 million pula, training, camping, travel are government’s obligation.”
Funding can help African countries to develop sporting disciplines such as athletics, swimming, tennis, karate, badminton, hockey, boxing and volleyball. Most African countries have given up on countless fixtures on these sports codes because they simply did not have the money to fulfil them.

July 2013
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