A News Analysis By Tony Nezianya –
Prior to the congress of the African chapter of International Sports Press Association, AIPS-Africa, held in Dakar between March 17 and March 21, there had been reservations that the event might be marred by poor attendance, given the apathy toward past congresses.
This is because the previous editions of the congress never had more than 15 country-delegations. This time around, not less than 21 countries attended the event.
The issue which lent credence to such fears was the fact that some national associations of sports journalists had been enmeshed in internal squabbles.
Besides, it was expected that Cote d’Ivoire’s delegation, whose two factions were present at the event, could be the springboard for trouble.
But as it turned out, the Executive Committee of the AIPS-Africa nipped the problem in the bud and persuaded the the factions to fuse before the AIPS congress in Baku, capital of Azerbaijan.
Apparently, the large turnout of delegates from the 21 countries as well as the presence of AIPS President Gianni Merlo did the magic of re-uniting all the delegates in efforts toward addressing the more daunting challenges facing the continental body.
The calibre of the sports personalities who attended the congress signified that the AIPS-Africa was very much determined to reposition sports journalism in Africa rather than using the forum to reopen old wounds.
The personalities at the congress include Lamine Diack, the President of the International Association Athletics Federation (IAAF); the Senegalese Sports Minister Mbagnick Ndiaye and his colleague from the Congo-Brazzaville, Leon Alfred Obimpat.
The fact that the year is loaded with a lot of sport competitions, perhaps, narrowed the room for discussions on mundane issues. Rather, the focus of the congress was primarily on the challenges facing the various programmes on the sporting calendar.
These programmes include the 12 June to 13 July FIFA World Cup in Brazil, the 23 July to 3 August Commonwealth Games in Scotland and the 22 May to 30 May Africa Youth Games in Botswana.
At the congress, Congo-Brazzaville’s sports minister, Obimpat, gave an update on the preparations towards hosting the 11th All Africa Games in 2015 and the accomplishments so far recorded.
It is, however, pertinent to note that the games will be staged in Congo-Brazzaville, 50 years after its debut in that country in 1965.
In his presentation at the forum, Obimpat showed video clips of the accomplishments and conveyed his government’s commitment toward completing the construction and rehabilitation of all the sporting facilities, five months prior to the beginning of the games.
Apart from Obimpat, Senegal’s Papa Massata Diack, IAAF’s Marketing Adviser and owner of Pamodzi Sports Marketing, gave an insightful presentation on ‘Changing Africa’s Sport Fortunes through Marketing and Media’.
Diack expressed the optimism that Africa would become a destination of choice for successful marketing initiative, given the successful staging of the World Cup by South Africa, the first by any African country.
Besides, Nigeria’s Dan Ngerem, the President, Dan Ngerem Sports Foundation and former President, Nigeria Athletics Federation, spoke on the ‘The African Sport Challenge’.
He held the audience spell-bound while discussing the abundant human and material resources existing in the field of sports in Africa.
Ngerem, however, underscored the need to promote accountability in efforts to promote private-sector collaboration in sports finance.
Moreover, Nigeria’s Suleiman Habuba, a former Director of Communications in CAF, spoke about the coverage of big football events, stressing that there should not be any compromise in providing excellent production conditions for the media.
Senegal’s Diamil Faye, an IOC Media Consultant, who gave a presentation on ‘Media and Professionalisation of Sports’, underscored the need to engage experts to organise quality games, in line with the growing sophistication of Africa’s sports fans.
From all the presentations, it was very obvious that the role of African media in promoting sporting excellence on the continent could never be over-emphasised.
However, the general consensus at the congress was that at the moment, the place of the African media in the scheme of things had yet to be firmly established.
The participants agreed that sports journalism in Africa must, therefore, be repositioned in efforts to transform Africa’s sports development.
“The sports journalists should be more organised to enable them to tap into the enormous funds available in sports”, they said in their communiqué.
All the same, Merlo re-emphasised the need for African sports journalists to recognise the fact that they were constantly facing some challenges, just like their counterparts in other parts of the world.
“You must be ready to fight at all times for your right to exist; this is one guiding principle which we inherited from our founding fathers in 1924.
“You must know that we were founded within a boxing ring; this symbolised fight and we virtually have to continue to fight to remain united, free and independent as professionals in our own right”, Merlo added.
Nevertheless, some other far reaching decisions were made during the congress.vOne of the decisions related to the controversy surrounding the issue of the permanent secretariat for AIPS-Africa, which was settled with the location of the headquarters in Casablanca, Morocco.
An official letter, signed by the Government of Morocco on the issue, was presented to the AIPS-Africa congress in Dakar. The Moroccan delegation said that they were waiting for the leadership of AIPS-Africa to come to Morocco to sign the protocol agreement which would facilitate the transfer of the secretariat to their country.
Mitchell Obi, the President of AIPS-Africa, conceded that the signing of the protocol was a priority, particularly due to the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament in January 2015.
He noted that the pledge of Royal Air Maroc and the City of Casablanca to sign agreements of collaboration with AIPS-Africa was one of the association’s main achievements.
“Due to the significance of these issues to the AIPS, the Executive Committee will hold its meeting in Morocco in September to conclude these important agreements”, he added.
All the same, the congress resolved that the meeting of the Executive Committee of AIPS-Africa would hold in Addis-Ababa in November, while the annual AIPS-Africa Congress would take place in Brazzaville in June 2015.
It was also resolved that a ‘Young Reporters’ Programme’ should be organised between January and February 2015 to coincide with AFCON tournament in Morocco.
Another important resolution of the congress was the conduct of a re-training programme for senior sports journalists in line with the current trends in the industry.
The congress also resolved to commission a study on how to organise a week of activities dedicated to sport journalism in Africa and the organisation of a football tournament among national teams of sports journalists.
Beyond that, the congress made some appointments to strengthen the Executive Committee of AIPS-Africa. Assane Ndiaga Diop of Senegal is now in charge of protocol matters; Oumar Baba Traoré of Mali is appointed a special adviser; while Suleiman Habuba of Nigeria is now the special adviser in charge of education programmes.
The IAAF President, Diack, organised a luncheon for the delegates where he announced his impending exit from the IAAF.
The AIPS-Africa considered the gesture as a mark of love, affection and respect for African sports journalists.
“We will miss him. While in the saddle, Diack was a good man”, Obi said, while eulogising the IAAF chief.
As the congress ended on 21 March, all the participants were visibly happy, saying that a new vista had been opened in the association’s history.
Observers, nonetheless, underscore the need for the prompt implementation of the programmes and projects of AIPS-Africa by national associations of sports journalists.
-Culled from nan.