AUSC set out 7-year strategic sports development plan.
By Amaechi Agbo
The General Manager, Africa Union Sports Council, (AUSC) Region 2, Caleb Gidado, has disclosed in this exclusive interview with Bestchoicesports reporter, Amaechi Agbo, the 7-year strategic plans by the AUSC to develop sports in the continent.
What is Africa Union Sports Council all about?
Africa Union, AU, (formerly Organisation of Africa Unity) was created after the liberation of Africa from colonialism. And the need for unity, cohesion and integration, resulted in the formation of the AU. And to further consolidate that, sports has been realised to be a very vital tool for accelerating peace, progress and socio-economic development. It is on this basis that in the departmentalisation of the AU, where different departments have different roles to be achieved, sport was created as one of the departments.
In the immediate past when OAU was still in place, there was Supreme Council for Sports in Africa, SCSA. But with the changes in the architecture of OAU now becoming AU, the sports arm SCSA now became Africa Union Sports Council, AUSC. It is the sports development arm of the AU which is used to further foster peace, unity and integration and all other benefits accrued to taking part in sports are also achieved through this medium.
Why AUSC Region 2?
In the Region 2, just as we have Nigeria divided into different geopolitical zones, same way Africa is divided. Therefore, Region 2 is the West African Region. All the 15 countries in West Africa make up the AUSC Region 2. Region 1 is North Africa; Region 2, West Africa; Region 3 Central Africa; Region 4, East Africa and Region 5, South Africa. Those are the regions we have in AUSC.
What are your activities?
Our activities normally cut across all the West African countries. We have the headquarters in Nigeria. When it was Supreme Council for Sports in Africa, they were operating 7 different zones. But when it now became AUSC, the 7 zones where collapsed into 5 zones as I have mentioned earlier.
West Africa had two zones then with one headquarters in Lome, Togo and the other one was in Mali. After they were merged together, the decision arose on where the headquarters should be located. Nigeria hosted a strategic workshop during that time in 2015 and all member countries from 15 countries came and it was in that forum that the approval granting Nigeria the headquarters was ratified in Abuja. So Nigeria is the host in Abuja.
Another factor that gave Nigeria the headquarter was the consideration that the headquarters would be sited where the operation head of the regional bloc is based. That is, the AUSC Region 2 headquarters will be in the country where the headquarters of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, is. Fortunately for us, the headquarters of ECOWAS is Abuja so the headquarters of AUSC Region 2 is Abuja, Nigeria. The reason is for effective synergy because we are working hand-in-hand with them. That is the concept of social integration and peaceful development through sports. We are here promoting that aspect.
How has the AUSC been able to promote sports in the continent?
In promoting sports, we believe that charity begins at home. Our mandate is to focus on the countries within our boundaries. We don’t have limits per se but we have a strategic plan that gives us direction to which we are carrying out the implementation of the programmes in order to achieve the goals set out.
For example, the highlights of our strategic plans focus on these major areas:
• Sports policy matters – trying to see that we have effective polices that will drive the sports programme. If the structure based on governance and political will are not in place, we will not be able to move. As an organisation that took off in the year 2015, we are looking at all the governance and structural systems that would facilitate effective sports development in our member countries.
• Sports development – in terms of development, sports have a very large area or scope. People have different context because once they see a lot of facilities believe the country is doing well. Looking at sports development, we picked areas and set out what we want to achieve within a given time frame so that we keep moving from one plan to another. The strategic plan we are working on is from 2017 to 2024, subject to review. In each programme for each year, we pick an area of interest to focus on.
Under sports development, we are looking at human capacity development, sports for development and peace, we are also looking at marketing and communication as well as how to mobilise resources because sports do not go alone, it is very capital intensive.
We are also looking at organisational systems. So among all this, we pick one or two at a given time to see what we can do within a certain time frame such that collectively we know that by 2024 we can now look at what we have achieved and where we need to make adjustments.
Plans are not supposed to be static because as time is going, technology is evolving, inflation is in the increase; therefore, when you draw you plans, as you move on, you need to evaluate and if possible, keep making adjustment. Ultimately you have a target that by a given period of time, you will be able to achieve certain things.
What are the achievements recorded so far?
Right now, we are carrying out courses such as train the trainer coaching and referees courses for beginner coaches/Games Masters and Mistresses in selected sports popular in West Africa Sub-region selected from member states quarterly.
Establish and strengthen functional AUSC Region 2 Coaching and Referee Structure and systems to have a broad-based qualitative and quantitative technical manpower for rapid sports development across the West African Sub-region.
We are just a new organisation that got started barely three years ago. But we have been able to achieve many things. We have been able to host twice the 1st and 2nd sessions of the AUSC Region 2 Ministers meeting in Abuja. Everything is emanating from here pending when we are strong enough to start rotating the hosting among member nations.
To further consolidate, we are conducting on-the-spot assessment tour of each member states to see what they have on ground. There are many areas to touch and with different governments’ supports, we want to encourage each member state to identify with one sport and focus on it.
Are you encouraging comparative focus on sports development?
We want a situation whereby a country will be synonymous with a particular game such that it can be referred to as the centre of excellence for that sport. Such that our member countries preparing for Olympics and world athletics can converge there and train. It is our target to collectively support each country to achieve this target.
For instance, Nigeria is an athletics nation, so how is Nigeria encouraging the discovering and nurturing of athletes is our concern. Each country is supposed to know the sport that they have comparative competitive advantage and support it all out, establish the needed structure for its growth so that at the end, other West African countries can go there and camp.
So these are the plans we have and that is what I mean by charity begins at home so that by the time we coordinate our plans across regions, we will see how far we have encouraged the development of sports in the continent. When each country has at least one facility in a sport and other countries converge their for camping, then our plan to achieve the much desired unity, cohesion, cooperation and integration will be achieved.
What challenges are you encountering?
No programme sees the light of the day without funding. Setting up new organisation requires a lot of efforts. We are mandated by the council of ministers to see that we entre into partnership with companies and corporate entities. So right now, we are looking for credible marketers who will come and work with us and as the MoU dictates, we will work accordingly. Sports is a very vast area; therefore, it is call we are doing. We have engaged some marketers who are still considering the environment and we are pretty sure that within a short time, the efforts will start yielding results. So we are open to welcome partners to move sports forward in the region.
We have had an MoU with Nigeria Sports Development Funding Incorporated in which late Jide Fashekun was the Director-General; it was our first partner that we signed an MoU with. They are known for their drive to take not less than 90 athletes to Tokyo Olympics. It is already on record before his death but we are glad that the people he left behind there have told us they are ready to carry on. We mourn his departure but life has to continue because their plan this year was that by May/June, they will take off their own programmes so that by August, they were to host our own Region 2 Games.
PICTURE: Seated – Caleb Gidado, GM AUSC Region 2. (Standing from right: Ernest Essien AGM (Admin/Finance), Victoria Olaleye, Treasurer and Nnabuife Princess, Bilingual Secretary.