Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr. Sunday Akin Dare
The Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development (FMYSD) and the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) have highlighted the power of sports to promote peace and positive change in the world.
The Ministry and the NIIA collaborated to organise the first ever conference on Sports Diplomacy as the driver of Nigeria’s foreign policy agenda for Africa. The colloquium was held on Thursday at the NIIA Headquarters, at Kofo Abayomi, Victoria Island, Lagos.
The Youth and Sports Development Minister, Sunday Dare, and the Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Professor Eghosa Osaghae both used the occasion of the conference to elaborate on the need to use sports to enhance social well being and build bridges among nations and peoples.
Osaghae said in his welcome remarks that sports has become a tool for the unification of people with diverse backgrounds and cultures, stating that the time to make it a central part of international diplomacy is now.
The NIIA Director-General also described sports men and women as ambassadors of peace whose influences transcend the tracks, fields, courts and arena of their sporting exploits.
In his own remarks, the Minister Sunday Dare said the power of sports and its intricate relationship with politics dates back to Greco Roman times, revealing that the Olympics Games were a positive fall out of this interplay.
Dare also spoke about the power of sports branding for nations, giving examples of India (known for cricket), Kenya (known for its middle and long distance racing), Jamaica (for sprints) and Brazil (football).
He said sports can stimulate economic activities and improve the cause of humanity, emphasising the need to transit sports to business models that will deliver all round value and ensure sustainable and incremental growth.
The Minister further stated that sports as a business is critical to its deployment as a tool for cohesion, development and elevation of the black race.
“One of the first steps I took as Minister was to seek President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval to reclassify sports as business. Thankfully, Mr President gave his approval in Council in 2020.
“With the work done with private and other public sector partners, as well as the National Economic Summit Group (NESG) we birthed a draft of the National Sports Industry Policy (NSIP), which will soon be presented to the Federal Executive Council for its consideration and hopefully approval.
“This policy is anchored on three triggers, the three ‘I’s which are Infrastructure, Investment and Incentive. All embedded in the sports policy,” Dare explained.
The Minister also spoke about some collaborative steps including Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed with the Egyptian, Algerian, Ghanaian, South African and Turkish Governments towards youth and sports development.
Revealing Nigeria’s support for Egypt’s campaign to become Africa’s first hosts of the Olympics Games in 2032, Dare said, “the capabilities of our Egyptian brothers and sisters are significant as those who have visited recently will testify.
“This will really showcase the capabilities of Africa to the world and bring the world even closer to Africa through this very powerful tool. The economic opportunities for our people are of course significant as the symbolic importance of hosting the world,” he added.
The Sports Diplomacy Colloquium had former Nigerian International footballer Segun Odegbami as the facilitator, while panelists were Mr Idy Uyoe, a sports scholar in the United States of America, Professor Ikaweba Bunting based in Tanzania and Mr Ron Davis, an international administrator and successful track and field coach.