We have to tag along sports in our development journey

Tuesday February 25 2020

The Jubilee administration will forever be held to shame for promising Kenya five state-of-the-art stadiums, none of which has materialized, almost seven years into their rule. The manifesto had indicated that the stadiums would be in Eldoret, Mombasa, Garissa, Kisumu and Nakuru. In the heat of the 2013 election campaigns, Wote, Chuka, Moyale, West Pokot, Nyeri and Kiambu joined the list of places that would see the magical sporting centers.

But we all know that Kenyan politicians have no sense of shame, nor integrity, nor accountability, so none of those towns has a new stadium to date. But the problem that we are facing as a nation is much deeper than the virtues or vices of politicians.

Decentralisation of government in the Constitution was supposed to bring services to the people, but in reality, what we have seen is the fragmentation of policy and coordination structures.

What we can all agree on is that the country has immense sporting talent but currently gets very little support from government. It is however very common place to hear of county governments spending millions of taxpayer’s money allegedly supporting the youth through sporting activities. They organise boxing tournaments and football matches, but rarely does one hear of netball or athletics competitions. Yet in all these areas Kenyan youth hold potent talent.

The fragmented efforts to develop sports must be harnessed and coordinated for the benefit of the youth. There needs to be clear policies on where the role of national government ends and where that of the county government starts. The nation risks spending million on a stadium in Kiambu or Wote and there are not enough youth to make use of such expensive facilities. To maximise the use of facilities, it might make more sense to build more than one stadium in Eldoret if that is where talent is in plenty.

It does also seem senseless to build a stadium in Mombasa or anywhere along the coast, where the obvious choice might be facilities that grow talent in both on-water and under-water sports.


Some will argue that the youth can travel to train in any place in Kenya, but the idea of government inputs to takes services where they are needed in an effort to improve our overall human development index in the country, the gross domestic product and improve the quality and standard of living for Kenyans. A potential athlete or sports person travelling thousands of kilometers to train is hardly in the above category of items.


County government can, for example, stop wasting millions on useless trophies and open incubation centers for youth sporting talent. This can also be looked at beyond raw talent to include youths who want to use technology to develop strategies for the sporting industry, those that would like to create merchandise to support the industry and social media gurus who want to create a link between these young and growing talents and audiences.

The trick will be to keep politicians out of such facilities and activities such as governor tournaments or CDF football. If no politician is allowed to organise classes in schools because education is a serious business, then neither should they be allowed to organise sporting activities. Sports is much more than a short term Public Relation gimmick for political gain. It is a career choice that uplift households and regenerate regions.

The stadiums should also be named after obvious choices to portray the vision and ambition of their creation. Running would be conducted at the Kipchoge or Rudisha or Ndereva stadiums. The Injera rugby pitch would speak to many swift and burly young men and women. Boxers would head to the Congistina or Wangila sports, while cricketers would head for the Odumbe stadium.

At the moment many stadiums in the country are grazing fields for cows until those once-a-year football tournaments are organised. It is a shame and a waste of valuable opportunity. Since sports are discipline-based activities, incubation centers would mean better health for our youth, growth in their self-confidence, better performance in school and reduced rates of juvenile delinquency.

It is a win-win situation. If Kenya falls short of creating champions, we shall create, happier, healthier, more productive youth.
Twitter: @muthonithangwa