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President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed the commitment of his administration to reposition sports as one of the major revenue earners for the Nigerian economy.
He believes that the sports industry has an expansive value chain that is capable of creating employment opportunities, transforming the economy and accelerating the economic prosperity of the country.
Speaking at the ongoing African Investment Forum, with the theme: ‘Economic Resilience Through Sustainable Investments’ in Abidjan, Cote d’ Ivoire at the weekend, Buhari noted that his administration was committed to taking sports from being a recreational activity to a business driven-industry, while assuring investors that the government was putting in place necessary measures to fix the infrastructural challenges that the economy was experiencing.
He further disclosed that by 2050 is his government’s long term plan, and part of the goals is turning sports into a business.
The president noted that the targets that the administration has set for the sports ministry is within the medium term plan 2021 to 2025, “so within up to 2025, we must have been able to push sports into the business arena.”
Buhari, who was represented at the event by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, commended Itana, a technology startup for embarking on the noble initiative to build a digital city in Lagos, stating that the effort would unlock a lot of opportunities for young people that are technology savvy.
The president expressed confidence that the Nigeria startup industry was doing very well, noting that there are five unicorns already in the country, therefore the digital city would give opportunity for growth and development to investors and entrepreneurs in that value chain.
According to him, “This morning there was a plenary session on sports business. The Nigerian government in its agenda 2050 plan had defined and planned for sports to become a business and the Minister of Sports, Mr. Sunday Dare had last week launched as sports business policy.
“So we have to run that path. Gradually, we have to make it attractive for investors to invest in the sports as a business. There is a huge opportunity to create large number of jobs and all kinds of value chain activities where youths and small businesses can flourish.
“Nigeria is doing a lot to improve the business climate. If you look at the ratings of Nigeria and the World Bank ease of doing business, we have been consistently progressing. Nigeria was rated in the last assessment as one of the top 10 reforming economies in the world. And also we are doing a lot in terms of building our infrastructural projects such as roads, railways, airports, and power, those are things that government has a responsibility to do. So the businesses don’t have to make those investments. So it will reduce the cost of doing business in Nigeria where you don’t have to generate your own power.
When the trip you have to take to deliver your goods is more efficient in terms of time, you will improve the business.
“We have started, and have done a lot in terms of infrastructure, but there is still a long way to go, and we are sure that the next government will also be doing the same thing because every government must seek to improve the infrastructure deficits in our country.
“So we are very hopeful that with the work that government is doing with incentives that have been provided, more investors both locally, as well as external investors will invest in Nigeria.
“The startup bill is one of the tools that government has undertaken to ease business for the young startup companies that will make all the registration processes, the clearances, the environment, better in addition to the expansion of broadband access.
“The law now provides backing for digital businesses to operate in an easier operating environment in Nigeria, and Nigeria is one of the first countries that have done such; so it is a plus for us. The Nigeria agenda 2050 is our long term plan, and part of the goals is turning sports into a business, but the targets that we set for the sports ministry is within the medium term plan of 2021 to 2025. So within up to 2025, we must have been able to push sports into the business arena.
Earlier in his remarks, the Executive President of Basketball Operations of the Toronto Raptors in the National Basketball Association (NBA), Masai Ujiri, had urged African countries to take sports seriously by considering it as a business rather than mere recreation.
He appealed to African governments to refocus sports as a business that should be creating wealth for their countries and build a formidable future for the younger generation.
“Sports is a recreation no more. It is a business. When I look at my country and the continent, I can’t find them doing great things in sports. Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Ghana- none of these countries has an arena that you can play an NBA or do other things that can give you that big money,” Ujiri said.
He commended the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, who he said had taken the initiative by establishing the Kigali Arena currently branded as BK Arena.