By Jjagwe Robert
This week on Tuesday, the Union of Uganda Sports Federations and Associations (UUSFA) met the Permanent Secretary (PS) of the Ministry of Education and Sports Mr. Alex Kakooza together with the Presidential Advisor on Sports, Mr. Gunter Lange, the Commissioners of Physical Education and Sports, Mr. Omara Apitta and Mr. Samuel Odongo. In attendance also was the Assistant General Secretary of the National Council of Sports, Mr. David Katende. One thing that caught our admiration for Mr. Kakooza, Mr. Gunter and Mr. Apitta was their belief that sports must help Athletes put food on the table.
Even before UUSFA could start on its presentation, the PS had already mentioned that sports needs to help Uganda’s youths to get employment so as to reduce idleness and promote national security. This proposal was strongly supported by both Mr. Gunter and Mr. Apitta. We were so happy to hear this because it was exactly the presentation we had gone to make to the PS. For those not aware, the PS is very key in determining which money goes where and when in the Ministry, well, among his other key roles.
UUSFA has been at the fore front of advocating for a change in how sports funds are utilized. We have been saying that these funds need to help us develop our local sports industry before we dream too much about flying out to compete with countries with already well developed sports sectors. And now we want to add advocacy for the government of Uganda to allocate Monthly Salaries to our National Players and Coaches.
National Players and their coaches have a duty to help the country shine on the world stage and in the process they market the country to potential tourists and investors. They also have a duty to win prize money and bring it back to help our economy. To fulfill these duties successfully, they must train very hard and this requires them to dedicate a lot of their time, energy and other resources. If this is a duty (or job) we require of them as a country, then they must be paid a salary for it otherwise they will be forced to inevitably divide their time between sports and doing other jobs that give them an income.
As these athletes grow up, their financial needs also increase and this means that they dedicate more time to the other jobs that give them money rather than sports. This is the main reason as to why we lose over 90% of our Athletes, especially after they join university. Simple calculation shows that a monthly salary of 1 million Ugx to the 10 best male plus 10 best female athletes in each of the 51 Ugandan Sports Federations yields a government expenditure of just 12.24 billion shillings per year on Athletes’ Salaries. The calculation here is 20 Athletes x 51 Federations x 1 million per Athlete x 12 months in a year = 12.24 billion Ugx
If the government announced that starting next financial year all top 20 players in each federation shall receive a net salary of 1 million Ugx per month, then immediately the entire country will turn its attention to sports. Almost all youths will start practicing very hard to get into the top 10 ranks (male and female) of each sport so that they get into the salary brackets. Investors, parents, schools, universities, etc. will all scramble to invest in sports to get their athletes into the salary brackets because at last there will finally be a strongly convincing reason to invest time and money playing sports.
The battle to get into the top salaried ranks will see the country automatically get very talented players who can easily win medals on the international stage. The overall after effects of such a master stroke by government would be that the sports industry becomes a Gold Mine within just one year; with the government mining one of the best minerals it now needs the most, which is, elimination of youth idleness. Not many things appeal to the youths naturally but Sports is definitely one of them. For instance the youths are not really drawn to things like Agriculture.
So now I guess the real question is; how hard is it to accommodate our National Players and coaches on the country’s pay roll especially when they qualify as Uganda’s Tourism Ambassadors of first choice? If 12.24 billion is just 0.028% of the total 44 trillion National Budget, is it so hard to spend this amount to help us all avert the dangers caused by idle youths? Finally I just want to repeat it here that, just like putting Ugandan sports on TV, these are the kinds of discussions we need to be having so that our fellow citizens take us serious. Anyway, we need not discuss or talk much about them but at least let us allocate funding for such clearly impactful interventions.
The Writer is the Secretary General of the Union of Uganda Sports Federations and Associations (UUSFA) and President of the Uganda Table Tennis Association (UTTA)