Netball World Youth Cup: The show comes to town

By Andrew Bonani Kamanga

THE netball fever has come to Gaborone, Botswana. The sport is truly coming to life with the arrival of teams from various parts of the world.

It is time for Africa to shine. Netball is indeed coming out of the shadows and challenging the established order of popularity.

It is in many countries the most popular sport for women and girls and the evidence is glaringly evident.

The big guns have landed in Gaborone with Pool A comprising New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Samoa.

Pool B is probably the toughest, the proverbial “Group of Death”, which has Australia, South Africa, Barbados, Zimbabwe and Singapore. Pool C has the hosts, Botswana, Jamaica, Cook Islands, Malaysia and Uganda.

The competition in Pool D will also be equally challenging and fierce with England, Fiji, Trinidad and Tobago, Wales and Grenada.

Netball might currently not have the allure and clout of professional indoor sport games such as basketball, handball, and volleyball.

However, netball is coming up and rising very fast. The excitement that has gripped the usually quiet town of Gaborone is indeed a sign of better things. The games started on 8 July and will conclude on 16 July 2017.

The Southern Times Africa Sports Forum has always been advocating for national and regional associations to work hard to attract high level events to the region.

The coming of the Netball World Youth Cup to Botswana is indeed a great achievement for the Botswana Netball Association (BONA), Confederation of Southern African Netball Associations (COSANA) and Netball Africa.

Sporting events are now big catalysts for general tourism which also promote return visits to the same country or city as well as word of mouth encouragement or advertisement for others to visit.

It would be interesting to find out how many people in a year visit and spend money in Southern Africa for sporting reasons.

In this connection, there is need for national and regional sport as well as tourism authorities to come together regularly to discuss strategies and plan in light of global trends.

Such collaboration would enable the region and individual countries to strategically position themselves with a view to promoting growth and development in the sport tourism sub-sector.

Regional sports confederations and national sports associations should find innovative ways of packaging and marketing their events to business houses throughout the region.

For example, there are companies operating throughout the region which should be approached to be partners in the development of regional products.

For example, companies and brands such as Coca Cola or Engen could be approached to sponsor competitions and events that bring together sports people from across the region.

It is also very important that there is regional sport tourism policy that addresses the diversity of Southern Africa, with a view to making the region the most attractive and competitive when it comes to hosting of continental and world events.

In this connection, there is need for national and regional sport organisations as well as tourism authorities to come to together regularly to discuss strategies and plans in light of global trends.

The global sport industry and auxiliary activities are now valued at approximately $20 billion annually.

Without proper policies and strategies, Africa and Southern Africa by extension will continue to be seriously marginalised in terms of the benefits of the global sport industry.

The development and sustenance of a vibrant sport tourism industry is one of the ways of ensuring that Southern Africa and its people benefit from the explosion of activities associated with sport development and events.

Events such as the Netball World Youth Cup must not come to the region by chance through the initiative of a few dedicated individuals but should be a product of a well – coordinated, deliberate, and long-term regional strategy. Training for excellence in event management should be availed in all Southern African countries.

The time for business as usual or mickey-mouse operations in event management are long gone. Southern African countries have no excuse for not delivering well-run events providing memorable experiences for all involved.

Hosting of major continental and international events increases continental and global recognition of any country.

It is indeed one way of marketing the country as an investment and tourist destination. The achievement by Botswana should not be an isolated incident but should be followed in the rest of the region.

The chronic unemployment affecting Southern African countries, especially the youth, needs concerted efforts from all sectors of the economy.

Southern African sports leaders must, therefore, directly contribute to the improvement of the lives of ordinary people if they are to be taken seriously.

Just like the 2010 FIFA World Cup, sport leaders should not be caught in the euphoria of an event but must plan ahead to ensure sustainability and direction in bidding for and hosting of events. To this end, the African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 and the Confederation of Southern African National Olympic Committees (COSANOC) can provide the leadership and guidance required by the region.

When the flags are lowered at the closing ceremony on 16 July 2017, no matter who has won the Netball World Youth Cup, it will draw to a close a monumental achievement by Botswana and the region. Southern Africans deserve much, much, more!

July 2017
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