The answer to this is a resounding Yes!
On March 7th, we held our inaugural event titled ‘An Introduction to the African Sports Market’. The event was the first of its kind and gathered key decision makers within the niche yet burgeoning African Sports Market, highlighting the challenges and opportunities that exist. Held during the evening at BirkbeckSportBusinessCentre, we had an expert panel of 3 sports business individuals Jairo Pachon, Drew Uyi & Themba Ndlwana who shared their insight to our 80+ delegates.
Having had the privilege of hosting the panel, here are some of my key takeaways from the event as well as the knowledge shared by our panellists and delegates.
1. Opportunities, Opportunities, Opportunities!
It was great to have an environment where people with first-hand experience of the African Sports market could share their knowledge. Despite the hurdles and challenges that exist, it is fair to say that the opportunities are extensive for people who are pushing for change and growth from Data, Athlete Welfare, Media, Grassroots and much more. This sharing of knowledge and gathering of people is key in identifying where the opportunities exist.
2. Don’t do things in isolation – Collaborate – Teamwork makes the dream work.
Collaboration>Competition. There was a clear sense that the African community need to unite within themselves to make and be the catalyst for change. Despite other organisations entering the market and creating something seemingly big, ultimately, the view is that it is for their own benefit. This wasn’t to say that the work wasn’t admired and could act as a benchmark, but the need for unity and collaboration with like-minded individuals is compulsory for the African Sports market.
3. Think Long Term (Establish Trust and have Patience)
There was a general consensus in the room that, when it comes to business and opportunities in Africa, people need to start thinking long term and not just be in it for short term gains. This mentality will not support the global vision of building a sustainable sports industry. To have this sustainability, trust and patience are just two of the ingredients needed for things to come to fruition and to navigate in a complex market. In an often small and niche market, trust is essential between parties. A guarantee that all parties will be loyal, not run away with money etc. Patience is required as the market is complex, things may not come to fruition immediately, but with time, progress and completion will be achieved.
4. Be on the Ground
Despite Africa having a huge diaspora, it is important to visit the continent and the countries of most interest in order to get a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges that exist. Furthermore, once on ground, it will be easier to liaise with the key personnel. It also builds trust and shows commitment.
We are fortunate in Europe to have a plethora of institutions that offer sports business courses. Moreover, we are fortunate to witness first hand, both the economic value a booming sports industry can bring to a nation as well as a sense of harmony and solidarity amongst the people.
Unfortunately, in Africa, this has not been quite realised yet. At both grassroots and elite level, education is important. It is a continual process which one cannot neglect. From organised courses, reading up on the latest trends, seminars, etc. education can be improved.
Appreciating and understanding the true value that sports can bring to a nation through education is a must in order to develop a sustainable sports market.
6. Government Inclusion
During the Q&A a delegate stated that without government inclusion, not much will be achieved within Africa due to the influence that government can have. In any continent, nation or state, the government plays a key role in the advancement of the economy.
7. Build Your Brand!
I spoke to a delegate after the event and he mentioned one of the first things he done was purchase some on PR & Personal Branding. Drew Uyi, a Brand & PR specialist, stated that social media is no longer an option for athletes and the most important brand they need to work on is themselves. This resonated with most people in attendance. To help them attract other brands to partner with, they first needed to develop their own brand. Branding, whether for those on or off the field, is important in bringing a new perspective and allowing people to gain an understanding of what is happening within the African sports market.
8. Now is the Time!
Speaking to my lecturer after the event, Sean Hamil, he sensed that there seemed to be a tipping point happening now. Delegates were keen to share their knowledge and ask challenging questions during the Q&A. The engagement and feedback goes to show that there is an appetite for this community.
Events like this are necessary to bring people together with the focus on the African Sports Market. Unaware to the masses, many great things are occurring behind the scenes. These things are having a positive impact on the African sports market. Additionally, there is a demand for the gathering of a passionate community who all have the same vision to see the advancement of the African sports market.
There is no better time than now 😊