By Amaechi Agbo
The Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, First Legendary Investment Limited, Mainasara Illo has described the recent signing of agreement between his company and the Africa Union Sports Council, AUSC, Region 2 as a dawn of new beginning in for sports in West Africa sub-region
Speaking in an interview after the two parties signed a four-year partnership agreement for development and promotion of sports activities in the region, Mr Illo said that the agreement was timely, needful and very necessary in view of the urgent need to ensure that the West Africa region made up of 15 countries catches up with other sub-regions in the continent in sports development.
Mr Illo disclosed that apart from passion for the development of sports in the region, the current statistical deficiencies in sports against the region when compared with other sub-regions made the need for the partnership a necessary one
“If you look at recent events within the continent at the last All Africa Games in Brazzaville, Nigeria came second, but if you look at the total number of medals won by the 15 countries of the West Africa region, they are only 64, including those won by Nigeria. Whereas Egypt alone got 85 gold medals. So that really suggest we have plenty of work to do. As a matter of fact, we are about being none status in about 23 out of the 28 Olympic sports.
“These are frightening statistics but for me and First Legendary Investment Limited, we see them as opportunities. We believe that they can be positively converted to the effect that the West Africa Subregion will benefit from the progress in the sports industry
“These assets can be utilised positively especially when we consider that we are in a region where there is high rate of youth unemployment. The record checked placed Africa as a whole with 40% youth unemployment ranging from the highest which is 53% in Swaziland, to South Africa with 52% and to the very least, Rwanda with 3.3%. Faced with this, we are right in the middle of over 50% therefore we need to find other sources outside government employment opportunities to get our youths engaged.
“These figures represent assets and liabilities. Sports-wise, West Africa is a very important region in Africa but that is only if we choose to harness more our advantages.
“In truth, we are only doing very well in three sports – in football where the region produced the only Word Footballer of the Year in George Weah who is now the President of Liberia. This region also produced the first Olympic football gold medal in Nigeria. It has also produced the first Under 20 FIFA World Cup in Ghana. We are also a region very good in basketball and boxing. But if we go beyond that, there are great work for us to do in order to catch up.
“In athletics, we understand that where there are 88 world records – 44 for men and 44 for women, the East Africa region has 22 world records in athletics alone. The West Africa region among the 15 countries we have, we don’t hold a single world record in athletics,” he said.
Africa Union Sports Council, AUSC, Region 2 is the sports arm of the Africa Union, AU charged with the responsibility of overseeing the development of sports in the West Africa subregion of the continent. It is headquartered in Abuja, Nigeria.