Minister of Sports Tokozile Xasa has challenged the private sector to increase its investment in sports beyond meeting corporate social investment (CSI) targets.
Speaking to the Mail & Guardian at the inaugural Africa Investment Forum in Johannesburg on Friday, Xasa said: “At the moment with sports, you can see a little participation by the private sector but not looking into the bigger picture because there is a bigger picture when you talk the business of sport.
“Where you have more of the private sector participants at times they are looking at CSI and therefore that will be the contribution.”
The forum has been taking place throughout the week at the Sandton Convention Centre where governments, investors and promoters have been converting bankable projects into actual investments.
Xasa further explained that government needed to find ways to incentivise the private sector into contributing and participating in building infrastructure and development, saying, “[For example] how can we look into the tax structure that will be favourable for the private sector that contributes or participates in sports”.
“But also bringing in the private sector to run those facilities because the government cannot run them.
“It gives an opportunity for them to also diversify from where they are at the moment because the government in South Africa at the moment is also saying come private sector, we want to work with you here are the opportunities,” she added.
Xasa was part of a panel discussion focusing on the business of sports on the continent. She was joined by president of the US’s National Basketball Association (NBA) team Toronto Raptors Masai Ujiri and Premier Soccer League representative Jacky Simelane.
The sporting industry makes between $600-billion and $700-billion annually. Ujiri said the continent is unable to harness this because it overlooks talent.
“The talent walks around like its normal. You take Senegal, for instance, you go there, and you see all these tall human beings in Sudan and in Mali. You go to Cameroon, Congo and Nigeria, all the talent in football all the runners in Kenya, all these things are overlooked because we don’t pay attention to it because we think its normal.
“It’s not normal. It’s not normal that you have tribes of seven footers,” said Ujiri.
Ujiri said the ecosystem of sports in the United States and other developed countries — from merchandising to filling stadiums and marketing — was well thought out. “You wonder what it would be like if we had that here because we are the ones supplying a lot of the talent,” he said.
“The biggest issue in Africa is … cabinet reshuffles. Why do we have that,” asked Ujiri.
“You take a minister of works and housing and now you put them to become minister of sports. What the hell do they know about sports … the issue in sports in Africa is that they have taken sports and put us 50 years behind because they keep reshuffling sports,” said Ujiri.
“We need visionaries here, we need experts,” he added.
Xasa agreed with Ujiri saying Africa has talent but instead of investing in that talent, it is in the habit of exporting it.