Sports and Development in Ghana

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Written by Willem Alexander Coleman

Sports and Development in Ghana

For far too long, all we have done as a nation is to merely talk about the potential of sports and how our glory days in sports are long gone. They say money solves all problems, and so we need the finance to move our sports to the next level, but another fundamental problem we have with our sports here in Ghana is the lack of development.

Development here has two sides. We have the development of sports and using sports for development. And the two are not mutually exclusive. The two could go hand-in-hand, even though they are two separate things. When we talk about development of sport, we basically mean better sports performance and increased participation in sports. When we talk about sports for development, it refers to how we can use sports as a tool to improve our education and health and bring social inclusion and help other issues like peace-building and gender equality, among others.

In calling for a “revolution” in sports, one of the things we need to tackle is the perception that sport is merely an avenue for recreation. Recreation is not a bad thing, but there is much more to sport than just recreation. Also we need to rid ourselves of the perception that sport is for school drop-outs. I want to use this example. Let’s look at the use of the English language. Even though English is not a measure of one’s intelligence, it does say a lot about our literacy level. Just take any sports star from yesteryear and you will notice that the person has no trouble speaking decent English. Take a random talent today and chances are that the person will struggle to string two sentences in English. This could mean that either the educational system was much better then, or the fact that they were involved in sports exposed them to a better education, or both.

Luckily, now with all the sports academies springing up in Ghana, they take a keen interest in not just seeing the kids grow up to be good athletes, but also better human beings and giving them an education. Sport for development is high on their agenda. It is time that we extend this orientation to the rest of the population, and indeed, to corporate Ghana. The social enterprises involved in sports are doing their best, but help is needed from the general population and the corporate world.

Apart from education and health and all the other cliché stuff, sports creates employment. By employment not only do I mean for the athletes themselves, but there are so many other opportunities in management and administration as well. Not only that, but a whole ecosystem of business can be created with the establishment of sports facilities that gives our sports much more value than it currently has. I am of the opinion that with the alarming number of unemployed people, especially people with qualifications as high as master’s degrees, and with all the opportunities that exist in sports, there is no better time for many of these people to consider starting a business in sports, or around sports. The sheer amount of opportunities that exist in sports could give one enough work to do, and to help their less entrepreneurially inclined friends to get employment as well.

Basically, we need to start taking sports seriously again. We need to get the schools involved, we need to embark on some sort of civic education campaign where parents can also see the potential that sport has to change lives and communities. We seriously need to re-orient the population. Sport is powerful. Sport went as far as ending a civil war right next door to us, in Ivory Coast. Do we really need another example of how important sports can be? The time for talk is over. We need to act now. Despite the havoc that Covid-19 is wreaking, now that sports is gradually coming back, we should remember this period as the time that sports in Ghana took off again.

Change is coming. It is time.