President Uhuru Kenyatta's directive that all national teams representing Kenya be fully funded by the government has excited sports stakeholders.
Speaking on Sunday at the refurbished Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi during Beyond Zero Half Marathon, President Kenyatta assured athletes that the government would fund all national teams.
"Sports will take centre stage in my government's agenda this year," President Kenyatta said. "Our athletes are the shining star of Kenya, so all national teams, be it in netball or rugby, will be funded by my government. We have put in place a fund (Sports Fund) to take care of that and I want to tell the athletes that they will not lack uniforms or training shoes."
Uhuru's directive comes at a time when the ministry of sports is still in the process of ensuring all federations adhere to the Sports Act - created in 2013 by Parliament.
It is under this Act that the Sports Fund was formed. The fund is aimed at developing sports and recreation facilities including stadiums, gymnasiums, buildings, and tracks, as well as enhancing support and access to funding for sportspersons and sports organizations to enable their participation in sporting events and competitions.
The directive, which was supported by Deputy President William Ruto in a separate statement, comes at a time a cash-strapped an ill-prepared Kenya Sevens rugby team endured a weekend to forget in the World Ruby Sevens Series in Canada. The team, coached by Paul Murunga, lost 36-12, 35-12 and 36-21 to Fiji, Samoa and hosts Canada in their pool.
"That (directive) is welcome news. A huge relief. Our teams have struggled to produce positive results all season and that's partly because financially we are running on empty," Kenya Rugby Union chairman Richard Omwela said.
Football Kenya Federation president Nick Mwendwa welcomed President Kenyatta's statement, saying that operations at the federation have been hampered by cash flow problems on the side of government. "The President said the same thing in 2017 and our hope now is that it is implemented to the letter," said Mwendwa.
"We have consistently faced delays in funding by the government. We have a big (2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualification) match against Ghana next weekend and up until now, the government has not responded to our request of facilitating tickets to fly in (Michael) Olunga and (Victor) Wanyama. We also have an issue with delayed allowances for the national women’s team players dating back to last October. The president is serious but now the action has to be taken because we do not wish to be talking about money all the time."
Kenya Volleyball Federation secretary-general Ben Juma expressed hope the government will avail the Sh55 million budget needed to prepare national teams this year. Women's volleyball team will compete in the FIVB Women's World Cup in Japan in September, 2020 Olympic Games qualifiers, and Africa Nations Championship. Kenya will also compete in Africa U-21 beach volleyball games in Algeria next month.
"Our teams are among the best in the continent but we lack resources. If we can get the financial support required, we will dominate internationally," said Ben Juma.
Kenya Golf Union chairman Lucas Maranga said: "It (the President's directive) is a good thing but it’s easier said than done. We hope the fund should be managed effectively.”