Herbert Mensah, President of the Ghana Rugby Football Union and the newly elected President of Rugby Africa, Gives his thoughts on what sport on the continent needs to do for the future…
African rugby needs to respect itself and behave in a “world class” manner before it can be respected by the rest of the world.
The world has forgotten the African Games.
More than that, it seems that the African Games have been forgotten by Africans. In the world of rugby, in particular, there are countries across the continent that haven’t had an active rugby league for more than three years!
Nothing is more demonstrative of this spirit than the approach to the African Games by World Rugby, the sport’s global governing body. Last year, World Rugby just awarded $2 million to promote the game across the African continent. It’s an absurdly small amount for the entire continent, but what’s more telling is the way it underestimates the African continent more than anything else.
Sports competitions are not about entertainment and physical prowess. It is a multi-billion dollar industry that generates advertising revenue, tourism inflows, infrastructure development and investment in a myriad of different economic sectors.
We see evidence of this when the same organization is willing to pay a rugby Europe country $5 million, or even $6 million a year, to promote rugby in a population of over 1.2 billion, leaving the entire African continent with junk.
This fact alone is telling of how little respect African rugby is given by the world and it is inevitable that we ask ourselves whether this respect should not first come from us, Africans.
We have the same governing bodies as in rich western countries, unions, managers, boards, board meetings, but what is all this if they are mostly populated by “friends of friends in high places” and if they have none Monetary support to act on any decision they take?
We need to remind ourselves of the power and value of play; This is big business.
I have dedicated my life to running various businesses in and out of Africa and if there is one thing that drives any business, it is money. We cannot continue to act like African sport is a charity case in need of help.
I believe deeply in the vision of Africa Post-Ed and Post-Charity of His Excellency the President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
This is my vision for African rugby, Rugby Post-Ed.
The way to achieve it is not a mystery. We all know it, even if most of the times we are not ready to admit it. Rugby is big business, and it needs to be run like a business. It’s that simple.
This is the only way to promote and develop the game. Capital begets capital. We need to improve our governance track record across the board, get better managers who will drive the business forward, and raise capital to give them the tools to do their jobs properly.
The rugby world views Africa as one big poor country. This must end. The diversity of the continent’s nations is equally manifested in its sporting cultures.
We need to adjust our strategy to the particularities of each market and each region. We need to brand ourselves and promote ourselves to the world, make ourselves worthy of notice and respect. Only then will we be able to demand from global organizations the respect and capital we deserve.
It starts with changing our practices, applying world standards to what we do, rather than African standards. We have forgotten that sports and games can produce positive effects. Sports competitions are not about entertainment and physical prowess. It is a multi-billion dollar industry that generates advertising revenue, tourism inflows, infrastructure development and investment in a myriad of different economic sectors.
We need to change the way the world views African rugby
It promotes social development, and on top of that, shows a country to the world. Sports helps to uplift nations, attract attention to a country worthy of investment, worthy of travel, worthy of doing business. Sports actively contribute to the economic development of a country and uplift the lives of its citizens.
This is the real potential value of rugby, and the potential value of treating it as big business.
By changing the way we operate, and our value and potential for growth, we need to change the way we view African rugby. Change must start with us! We cannot go begging rich countries to borrow money to create money. We need to lobby, we need to organize, we need to engage the political leadership of each nation and region to engage the continental institutions that can help finance these developments. We need to involve the African Union, ECOWAS, African owned banks, African Development Bank and so on.
Once we have professionalized world rugby and managed to finance ourselves within ourselves, then and only then, can we consider seeking more from world rugby from global advertisers and sponsors who Competing side by side to bring the major international competitions. Africa.
Looking at rugby as big business is not re-inventing the wheel. Understanding that image, perception, branding is nothing new when we want to attract capital and visitors, and yet it has never been done for African rugby.
This means hundreds of millions of dollars lost, and direct and indirect benefits that could positively impact hundreds of millions of people across the continent.
If I am successful in my candidacy, I will bring this vision to Rugby Africa. It is the first time that the election of the Presidency of Rugby Africa is contested.
Let’s make things differently, let’s make it count. Let’s make Rugby Africa big business for the benefit of all.