Middle income status pursuit: Could sports be a viable option?

Tuesday December 12 2017




With the date for attaining middle income status fast approaching, it seems more unlikely that the middle income status Uganda is striving for is achievable. For the country to attain a middle income status, each citizen should earn at least Shs290,000 per month. Results show a slowdown in economic growth in the past three years from 5.2 per cent in 2014, 5.0 per cent in 2015 and 4.7 per cent in 2016. This year is likely to witness a further decline.

Our preferred choice of economic growth drivers has and continues to be agriculture. This is because we have comparative advantage in the sector. Some of the obvious advantages are good and fertile soils, suitable climate, adequate water and cheap human resource. However, for tangible results to be got from the agriculture sector, it will require a substantial investment and time. Resources have to be invested in improving agricultural skills of Ugandans, improving infrastructure, negotiating and finding lucrative markets, etc.

There is, however, one sector, the sports sector, which could get us faster to the desired middle income status if we paid more attention to it. To appreciate how lucrative this sector is, one has to look at the earnings of some top sports personalities around the world.

Floyd Mayweather Jr, who is a boxer, is estimated to be worth $1b. Micheal Jordan, who is now a retired basketballer, is estimated to be worth $1.5b while Tiger Woods, a golfer, is estimated to be worth $1.4b. The combined weekly earnings of the world’s top 10 footballers is estimated at 4.5m Pounds. The net worth of just three leading global sports personalities (Mayweather, Tiger Woods and Micheal Jordan) is more than $4b. In the last boxing bout between Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, the former walked away with about $400m. The bout generated even much more in TV revenues. All this was earned in less than four hours. How many sectors make that kind of money?

Just between these sports personalities, they can run Uganda’s budget. They can pay off Uganda’s debt with ease, which currently stands at $8m. Even if Uganda had 10 good footballers playing internationally and earning a tenth of the world’s best players, the country would be able to earn about 20m Pounds annually. If Uganda could pay more attention to the sports sector, it could be a worthwhile investment that could even get us to the middle income status faster than the agriculture sector we mostly rely on. These revenues could significantly raise our country’s economic standing, which could be invested to boost economic growth hence increase in incomes.

The beauty about the sports sector is that it will not even require huge investment like the agriculture sector. History shows that Uganda has in the past produced some great sportsmen. Examples are John Mugabe aka “The beast”, John Akiibua, Davis Kamoga and more recently Stephen Kiprotich.

So as a country, we are not short of talent. We just need to identify and promote specific talents seriously. Like any other undertaking, it requires time, but if we give it the attention it deserves, results could be registered quickly. I can bet, if we invested in Moses Golola, we can very easily front him for a big match with some of international boxers or kickboxers.

There are many other strong men like those who unload 100kg sacks of merchandise in Kikubo for a few dollars, who for a prospect of getting much more money, would be energised to face big names.
Sports can be a very viable option to boost a country’s revenue, but this will only be achievable if we begin to take sports activities seriously. The way football teams in the country keep crying out for help to go for international matches is evidence enough that we have not considered sports as a priority sector.

Besides sports being a viable alternative to propelling Uganda into a middle income status, it would be of great benefit to improving health countrywide if we incorporated into our lifestyles, work places and homes. It would mean less expenditure on health and having a happier society.

Mr Makobore is a businessman, economist and farmer. [email protected]