The New Times (Kigali)

10 November 2012

Rwanda: We Can Turn Rwanda Into an Active and Winning Nation

opinion

In order to build an active and winning nation that equitably improves the lives of all Rwandans; we need a strategic focus that will revitalise the delivery of sport in the country.

It is time that the integral role which sport plays in the process of nation-building is fully recognized. Sport is an investment. It is firstly an investment in the health, vitality and productivity of one's people.

It is secondly an investment of the future. The social benefits include an overall improvement in the quality of life and physical, mental and moral well-being of a population.

Furthermore, successful athletes serve as role models for the youth of the country, as achievers, as unofficial ambassadors, and as individuals committed to equality and fairness in competition.

Because of its visibility, sport can play an enormous part in restoring gender and race inequalities as well as discrimination against people with disabilities and marginalised groups.

In Rwanda's case, sport is one of the most important cohesive factors in uniting the entire nation. This potential should be further harnessed for the good of the community.

We should fully utilize the opportunity that sport offers to demonstrate the best qualities of Rwandan society to the world.

Eighteen years after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, although significant progress has been made, transformation and reconciliation are still priorities - also within our sporting community.

In this regard, Rwanda's Ministry of Sports has a major role to play and this role should be outlined within a strategic focus (I doubt if they have any).

A strategic focus can only remain a paper exercise if it is not implemented by means of a conscious effort and firm commitment from government, non-governmental organisations (NGO), the private sector and Rwandan society in general.

Much as the government has its own development programme-Vision 2020, the sporting fraternity needs to have the same model which should be Vision 2022.

If we start now, by 2022, we should be able to have an effective and adequately resourced sports system meeting the needs of sports people at all levels of participation.

Rwanda should be acknowledged as a leader in world sport and recreation, we should at least have 50% of all Rwandans participating in sports.

Rwandan sport should be admired internationally, 80% of priority sports federations should be able to attain and/or maintain high positions in world rankings, and our transformation agenda should have been achieved.

In doing so, by 2015, we should be having a nation-building spirit maintained in all major events; Rwanda should be a choice destination for major events and sports tourism.

Physical education should be practiced in all schools resulting in school children broadening the talent pool, there should sufficient and accessible sports facilities that are well maintained and fully utilized by communities.

Sports should be recognised as a significant contributor to the country's GDP and we should be able to have an ethical and drug-free sporting society.

Our mission should be to maximise access, development and excellence at all levels of participation in sports in order to improve social cohesion, nation building and the quality of life of all Rwandans.

Key interventions with the potential to contribute to nation building will include increasing the number of participants in programmes for youth, children, women, people with disabilities, rural communities and the elderly; successfully hosting major events and improving performance at international events.

In addition to the primary impact, sport also has a secondary impact on amongst other the following: health; education; job creation; poverty alleviation; contribution to GDP; peace and development and rural development.

To have an effective and sustainable impact on identified Government priorities, the Ministry of Sport should be able to focus on two outcomes; increased participation in sport and improved national and international performances of Rwandan athletes.

These outcomes will only be achieved if identified enablers are in place. In order to have an active nation, a higher percentage of the population should actively be participating in sports.

For Rwanda to be a winning nation, we need to have improved national and international performances of Rwandan athletes.

This can be achieved if the number of athletes achieving national performance standards has risen as well having radical improvements in the aggregated international sports rankings.

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