President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s tenure has been marked by an unwavering commitment to developing Ghana’s sports sector. His visionary leadership and dedication to enhancing sports infrastructure, promoting youth development and supporting athletes have brought about a transformation in the nation’s sporting landscape.
There are not many leaders who display such vision, enthusiasm and unshakeable dedication to creating a lasting mark on sports infrastructure development as President Akufo-Addo has done.
He has demonstrated revolutionary leadership in the development of sports. His relentless efforts to improve the industry and foster an atmosphere that supports greatness have brought Ghana’s sports to new heights.
Sport, as we all know, is a multibillion-dollar industry with the ability to contribute significantly to our GDP if properly handled. Africa is gifted with a wide range of talents, but it lags behind in realising the benefits of its large pool of sporting potential because of inadequate infrastructure, among other factors.
This article reflects on some of the feats by the government of President Akufo-Addo in the sports sector.
Interventions in women’s football
During the challenging times at the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak, President Akufo-Addo’s government extended its support for female footballers by providing them with monthly stipends through the Youth in Sports Programme under the Youth Employment Agency (YEA).
This initiative aimed to mitigate the financial strain faced by the athletes and enable them to continue pursuing their sporting careers. Again, this policy was aimed at encouraging and motivating women in football.
As described in a publication by Ghanaweb.com dated 2 July 2020, which was titled “Ghana Women’s Premier League players to receive 500 cedis monthly allowance”, this was “an initiative to mitigate the economic impacts on the football clubs and players as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has seen football activities halted since 15 March 2020”.
Financial support for Premier League teams
Recognising the impact of COVID-19 on Ghana’s football industry, President Akufo-Addo’s government offered financial support to Premier League teams.
This assistance helped the clubs to navigate the difficult times and sustain their operations, safeguarding the livelihoods of players and staff.
As stated in a press release from the Ministry of Youth and Sports dated 4 December 2020, “The President of the Republic, His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has authorised the Ministry of Youth and Sports to release an amount of nine hundred thousand cedis (GHC900,000) as a first tranche of payment to support the 19 Premier League clubs to offset some of their expenses in this era of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Each club is to receive an amount of fifty thousand Ghana cedis (GHC50,000).”
Sports Development Fund
The Sports Development Fund will undoubtedly play a vital role in promoting sports at all levels and will position our sports industry to compete with other sectors as an important driver of the national economy.
Delivering his second State of the Nation Address, the president said: “This year, we will continue the process of passing the legislative instruments of the National Youth and Sports Act, pursue the enactment of the draft National Sports College Bill, and create a Sports Fund to improve sports development in the country.
“I’m excited to say the bill is currently being reviewed to meet the recommendations of cabinet and will soon be for approval to the next level.”
National sports policy
The implementation of the policy is expected to guide management and development of sports in Ghana if passed by Parliament.
In line with the government’s vision, the Ministry of Youth and Sports met with selected key stakeholders in the media and corporate agencies on 29 March 2023 to seek their input into the policy.
The policy, when finalised, will serve as the bedrock for sports in Ghana.
President Akufo-Addo demonstrated his unwavering commitment to uplifting Ghana’s premier national football team, the Black Stars, and positioning them for success in the 2022 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) and World Cup by organising a series of fundraising breakfasts to encourage corporate bodies to support the team.
The motive behind this, as stated by the Minister of Youth and Sports, Honourable Mustapha Ussif, was to reduce the burden of financing the national teams from government and also to create room for the funding of other sports.
Although the whole funding target was not achieved, the Black Stars eventually made it to the Qatar 2022 World Cup through strategic deployment of resources throughout the qualifiers and playoffs.
The point must also be made that, the funds raised not only strengthened the team’s foundation but also bolstered national pride and unity as Ghanaians rallied behind their beloved football heroes in pursuit of glory and joyously contributed to the agenda.
In his personal fundraising quest, the president met and engaged with Ralph Mupita, the chief executive officer of Africa’s leading communication network, MTN, and directly solicited support for the Black Stars. This meeting birthed the $2m sponsorship deal for the Black Stars.
Investment fund for youth teams
The president and the honourable minister deserve commendation for their initiative to establish an investment fund in collaboration with GLICO Pensions for the junior national teams.
This groundbreaking move, which involves investing a portion of national athletes’ winning bonuses, aims to secure a better future for them after their sporting careers.
During the launch, Honourable Ussif highlighted how, unfortunately, many athletes face financial hardship once their peak performance years are over, often becoming burdens on society.
Recognising the need to address this challenge, the minister engaged in discussions with President Akufo-Addo, who advised investing 50% of the U20 team’s winning bonuses towards securing their future.
This visionary approach not only ensures the financial well-being of athletes but also encourages young athletes to invest in their own future. The first beneficiaries of this initiative, the Black Satellites and the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Team, have received substantial investments of US$130,000 and US$150,000, respectively.
This step by the president and the minister sets a positive precedent for safeguarding the futures of Ghana’s national athletes, providing them with a renewed sense of morale and pride as they serve the country on the international stage.
MOUs with other countries
In line with the government’s vision to build strong bilateral relations with other countries for sports development, the Ministry of Youth and Sports recently signed two memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with Namibia and Malta, in an exciting development for the sports industry.
The agreements will make it possible for Ghana to use athletics facilities in these nations for free. In addition, the ministry has many more MoUs in the pipeline for signature with countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Greece, Iran, Niger, Spain and Zambia.
The agreements demonstrate the government’s commitment to promoting international collaboration in sports. The collaborative activities include the exchange of sports facilities for training and camping, exchange of technical personnel, research collaborations, capacity-building, mutual support for international portfolios and youth development initiatives.
This initiative, spearheaded by the president and the Minister of Youth and Sports, shows their dedication to raising the position of Ghana’s sports on the global stage and nurturing the talent and potential of the nation’s youth.
Multipurpose youth resource centres
President Akufo-Addo again showed foresight in creating multipurpose youth resource centres throughout Ghana. These will have a revolutionary impact on youth empowerment and development.
The centres will create an enabling environment for young people to unlock their potential, discover their talents, and become agents of positive change in their communities by providing state-of-the-art facilities for sports, recreation, skills training and mentorship.
Six out of the ten centres are at the phase two completion stage (Axim, Dormaa Ahenkro, Dunkwa-on-Offin, Ho, Koforidua and Wa).
Phase two work on the remaining four (Kaneshie, Navrongo, Nyinahini and Yendi) will soon commence.
Infrastructure for 13th African Games
The COVID-19 pandemic made it necessary to use an approach of hybrid hosting and organisation for the 13th African Games, dubbed “ACCRA 2023”.
The main complex, when completed, will consist of a 1,000-seater competition venue for swimming, with a ten-lane competition pool; an eight-lane warm-up pool; a 1,000-seater multipurpose sports hall for basketball, badminton, boxing, table tennis and weightlifting; and a 500-seater temporary dome for handball, volleyball, judo, karate and taekwondo.
These facilities, when completed, will not only ensure the successful hosting of the Games but also provide long-term benefits for our local sports, especially other disciplines commonly referred to as “lesser-known sports”.
The facility has been earmarked to be used as the University for Sports Development after the Games. This will undoubtedly ensure the protection and regular, proper use of the edifices after the competition.
Artificial turf installations (AstroTurfs)
Another notable achievement of President Akufo-Addo’s government has been the development of over 130 AstroTurfs around Ghana.
When the president took office in 2017, Ghana had only two AstroTurf fields, both privately owned.
The installation of the new artificial pitches has created a safe and suitable atmosphere for young people at the grass-roots level to nurture their talent and encourage them to achieve their goals.
Today, several lower-level teams, including women’s football sides, benefit from this initiative, as most of them use these facilities. There are plans to ensure every part of Ghana benefits under the “One Constituency, One AstroTurf” initiative.
Accra Sports Stadium
One of the most significant investments in sports development has been the renovation of the Accra Sports Stadium, which was in a state of disrepair when President Akufo-Addo took office.
The facility has undergone a series of renovations since 2017.
The refurbishment has included replacement of the pitch, installation of modern seating and upgrading of facilities to meet international standards.
Though the renovation processes are still ongoing, the facility is now fit for purpose and suitable to host all international games.
Baba Yara Sports Stadium
The Baba Yara Sports Stadium, like other facilities around the country, has received significant attention and investment by the Akufo-Addo government.
The refurbishment efforts here aimed to enhance the stadium infrastructure and create a more conducive environment for sports activities.
These improvements have bolstered the venue’s status as a hub for football and other sports events in the Ashanti Region and Ghana at large.
The work on the facility has helped revive the passion for football among the people of Ashanti.
Cape Coast Sports Stadium
The government has carried out a good few rounds of renovation work on the Cape Coast Sports Stadium to meet FIFA/CAF requirements and modern safety standards.
This state-of-the-art stadium has not only boosted sports activities in the Central Region but has also provided a venue for hosting national and international events, enhancing Ghana’s sports tourism potential.
Aliu Mahama Stadium
The Minister of Youth and Sports recently toured the Aliu Mahama Sports Stadium in Tamale and announced to reporters the government’s plans to renovate the site.
The stadium has in recent times served as the home ground for Real Tamale United and Tamale City, both of whom are in the Premier League.
It also serves as a host venue for school games.
Investment in the renovation of this facility will undoubtedly go a long way to improve sports in the Northern half of Ghana.
Essipong Sports Stadium
Recognising the importance of renovating existing infrastructure, President Akufo-Addo’s administration undertook the refurbishment of the Essipong Sports Stadium.
Phase one of the renovation, which involved the removal of fibre roofing and rusted metalwork, among other changes, has been executed in anticipation of phase two, which will entail a complete overhaul of the edifice.
The recent criticism of the status of works on the facility because of delays in the procurement processes is understandable. However, it must be said that the current government has demonstrated beyond all doubt its commitment to developing sports irrespective of geographical location or political benefit.
As reported elsewhere, the contractor has returned to the Cape Coast site to commence phase two of the renovation work.
For Mr President, sports in Ghana must be developed and positioned to compete on the global stage.
Jamaldeen A Abdullah
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