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The low-hanging fruit of sports as a socio-economic stimulant


Mokotjo Maseli

Is the Government of Lesotho (GoL) really serious about improving socio-economic challenges or is it just another day of lip service from politicians?

Why is it then that Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) has continually built textile factory shells over investing in sport infrastructure even when AGOA is threatened or market demands dwindles?

Sport is an industry, right? And the motto of LNDC is “We build industry”?

What is it about the textile sector that has seen so much investment and patience from GoL that sport does not deserve? Is it maybe because sport has never been seen as a business that it is?

There is a long-going unconfirmed statement that is said to have been uttered by the ex-Prime Minister Pakalitha Bethuel Mosisili that sport is just exercise and as such no one should be paid for actively participating in sport, ironic that it was under his administration that the country really saw some investment in sport, Leshoboro Stadium in Mafeteng, upgrade of Setsoto National Stadium, construction of Rapokolana High Altitude Training Facility to mention just the few as was.

Over the years we have seen the government divesting in sports, discarding whatever efforts have been made in the past and completely doing a turnabout on sport.

This is very odd a decision considering the many socio-economic challenges the country faces that could be partly addressed by sport, as recently as the past year, a tobacco and alcohol levy was introduced to try regulate the rampant alcohol abuse in the Kingdom.

Well, first of all, what recreation is there for the young and old besides beerlympics(sic)? My simplistic view is that a sport active nation will drink less.

Alas GoL is not investing in new sport infrastructure, the sport budget allocation has become just a payroll.

One would think no new investment in sport infrastructure is a sad state of affairs but low and behold, GoL is not even maintaining old sport infrastructure as evidenced by the National Tennis Courts, Setsoto Stadium, Rapokolana High Altitude Training Facility, Maseru Pitso Ground (Ke Letlama by birth and allegiance) and a whole lot that I cannot think of as I pen(type) this lamentation piece.

Due to this no-care attitude of sport from GoL, our country is burdened with using sport infrastructure of other countries to keep up with code demands, an example will be the Men’s National Football Squad Likuena, Basotho have not watched Likuena play on the home soil competitively for well over 2 years, they are playing, just not locally as their home games are hosted in another country that has invested in sport infrastructure.

The monies that should have been spend in Lesotho (read economic activity) are being spend elsewhere, GoL is actively contributing to “illicit financial flows”, eroding our economy, a crime against Basotho and Lesotho.

Not only has GoL seen in fit to not invest in built infrastructure it has gone a step further to de-platform sport, in recent years we have seen the government of Lesotho ceasing to support the annual High Altitude Summer Marathon, just as it was gaining popularity, international recognition (more international athlete participation beyond SADC) and was becoming an important event for Mokhotlong in terms of commercial activity.

Locals invested in accommodation to absorb the mass descend on every first weekend of December annually only for GoL to pull a plug on the economic boost the town was enjoying from tourism brought about by the race.

As is Lesotho runners cannot make money from running in their own country, as there is no lucrative race to participate in, they have to look to a different place for that. While there is nothing wrong with exporting talent, East Africa (Kenyans and Ethiopians particularly) do it for with their athletes, Brazil and Argentina as well North and West Africa do it too, albeit in football. The impact on remittances is visible even to a blind man (remember migrant labourers who worked in mines?

And most recently Basotho women who work as house helps), one Sadio Mane comes to mind with his philanthropic exploits. We do however need platforms for development, our unique topography also means we can be an internationally sought after sporting destination.

Corporate Lesotho has(is) trying to play their part too, while being familiar brands all the time and again, other players are still yet to be convinced of sport as a platform for Public Relations (PR), Marketing and/or Corporate Social Responsibly and Investment (CSRI) because Government of Lesotho is not playing its leadership role, be it policy wise or otherwise.

The sporting business value chain is vast, it has so many plug-ins across various fields of science, administration, tourism, media, at al, it has a potential that is waiting to be harnessed.

Sports need the commitment, patience and investment shown to the textile industry, sports need GoL to lead, sports need LNDC to build the industry, sports need proper administration, sports need participation of the private sector. BASOTHO NEED CHANGE IN ATTITUDES.

Mokotjo Maseli is a lead consultant at Molula-Qhooa Consultancy, a business development service provider firm and writes in his personal capacity.

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