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The story of Zambia’s first-ever sports expo: How one man’s dream led to a Presidential declaration of the Expo as a national event.

Zambia successfully hosted its first-ever Sports Expo and Forum from 25 to 26 August 2023 at the Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka under the theme, ”showcasing sports contribution to national development.” The first edition of the Expo was organised by the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Arts (MYSA), Ministry of Tourism, Zambia Diaspora Organisation, Zambia Tourism Agency and the members of the Emerging Sports Leaders Programme and Sport Leaders Institute of Zambia.

Over 100 organisations including 35 NFs took part in the exhibition with over 1500 people attending the Opening Ceremony, Sports Forum, and Cultural Night and Dinner while scores of people visited various exhibition stands. The Expo was graced by the Minister of Youth, Sport and Arts, Hon Elvis Nkandu who represented the President of the Republic of Zambia, HE Mr Hakainde Hichilema. He was joined by his counterparts, the Minister of Tourism, Hon Rodney Sikumba and Minister of Education, Hon Douglas Syakalima, and other senior officials including Permanent Secretaries such as Kangwa Chileshe, Diplomats accredited to Zambia, Directors from various Ministries and Defence and Security Wings and Chief Executives of various organisations including sponsors as well as heads of overarching sport organisations including the National Sports Council of Zambia (NSCZ), National Olympic Committee of Zambia (NOCZ) and National Federations.

In his keynote address read by Hon Nkandu on behalf of the President at the Opening Ceremony, two important pronouncements were made as follows:

1. The Expo will be held as a National Event to be hosted annually, and

2. The event will be included in the national budget.

In their speeches, both Hon Sikumba and Hon Syakalima made key statements with regard to how sport can complement advancements of the tourism industry and education sector, respectively.

Earlier during the Opening Ceremony, the call to recognise the importance of sport as a tool for national development and the role that the Diaspora played in advancing the sport development agenda through initiatives such as the Expo was made by the Zambia Diaspora Organisation president, Ferdinand Simaanya.

Proceeding the Opening Ceremony, a Sports Forum moderated by Dr Katongo Bwalya and Dr Bibiane Kalinde who are lecturers at the University of Zambia was held. Presentations on sport as tool for development were shared by notable presenters including Dr Hikabwa Decius Chipande, Coordinator at the African Union Sports Council in Yaoundé, Cameroon, Dr Lombe Mwambwa, Director of Research at the Global Observatory in Switzerland and Mr John Zulu, Director of Sport at MYSA. Others included Chavunga Lungu, Marketing Manager at the Zambia Tourism Agency, Dr Fredrick Chitangala, CEO at OYDC Zambia and Mable Nedziwe, Assistant Director of Youth at MYSA. At the end of the Forum, a set of Resolutions were presented by Assistant Director in the Ministry of Tourism, Chilala Mayanda Habasimbi.

Prior to the Expo, a Local Organising Committee (LOC) was formed to spearhead the preparations and eventual hosting of the event. The LOC co-chaired by the Permanent Secretary of Youth and Sport, Kangwa Chileshe and ZDO president, Ferdinand Simaanya which worked for eight (8) months comprised of various people representing different organisations. Some of the terms of reference of the Committee were to raise resources for hosting the Expo, engage exhibitors, market the event and collaborate with key stakeholders and partners such as Ministries and business organisations. While the Government through MYSA, Ministry of Tourism and ZTA provided significant funding, the LOC engaged organisations such as Zesco, Atlas Mara, Prudential Insurance, Ecobank, ZSIC Life, Coca Cola and Trade Kings to provide additional resources towards the event.

As with every success story, the hosting of the first sports expo begun as a simple idea in December 2022. After developing the Expo concept, Sombwa Musunsa, a sports administrator with over 15 years of experience in the sports sector and currently working as Programmes Manager at the African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 in Botswana shared his idea with colleagues who are part of the Emerging Sports Leaders Programme (ESLP), a mentorship initiative he founded in 2022. He presented an idea of hosting a sports expo which would be used as a platform for exhibiting a myriad of sport and non-sport goods and services. His dream was to bring together numerous stakeholders such as government, national sports federations (NFs) and other sport organisations, learning institutions, civil society organisations, the health sector and business community to meet under one roof to share success stories and opinions on how Zambia could advance an inclusive sport development agenda which contributes to social and economic development.

The five ESLP colleagues including Samantha Miyanda Ngoma, Elvis Bwalya, Floyd Chomba, Jason Miti, Mirriam Nanyinza and Khuzwayo Jere immediately supported the initiative with 100% commitment. Shortly thereafter, MYSA through the Permanent Secretary, Kangwa Chileshe and Ministry of Tourism through its Permanent Secretary, Evans Muhanga as well as ZTA were briefly engaged separately about the Expo. Around the same time, the Zambia Diaspora Organisation was engaged as a partner in hosting the Expo through the ZDO president Ferdinand Simaanya and Secretary General, Regina Mukondola who both agreed to be part of the hosting of the Expo.

With ZDO fully committed to the Expo, an LOC was formed, and various meetings were held with senior government officials and other stakeholders. Prior to this, Musunsa enlisted the services of a young man, Mwenze Nkulu to design the Expo logo which has been widely used in event publications and marketing.

Notwithstanding the uncertainty of hosting the Expo and some negativity from some quarters, the dates for the Expo were set for 25 and 26 August 2023. The team led by ZDO heightened its engagement of stakeholders such as the government, while Musunsa remained pivotal in driving the activities such as the Expo budget, venue proposal, first event poster design, opening of the event Facebook page and designing the sponsorship and exhibition packages. His vast knowledge on the sports landscape and familiarity with the structures was helpful in fostering collaborations with national federations, sports NGOs, fitness companies, institutions of learning and other exhibitors.

For Musunsa and the team, the major milestone during the preparatory period of the event was when the President of the Republic of Zambia, HE Mr Hakainde Hichilema confirmed his attendance as Guest of Honour. With fingers crossed, the team increased its efforts of ensuring a successful event was held.

Throughout the eight-month journey, Musunsa was always inspired by a statement made by the President on 15 March 2021 while in opposition, “Sport and athletics are important components of economic prosperity and I have no doubt that as a country, we can harness our incredible diversity of talents to elevate ourselves and create a lucrative industry”. For him and the team, the statement made by the President more than two years ago played an important role in hosting the Expo.

As the African proverb says, “one finger alone cannot kill a louse”, Musunsa strongly believes the success of the inaugural Expo was based on a collaborative approach undertaken by the LOC and other stakeholders including volunteers that worked tirelessly during the two-day event.

For Sombwa and his colleagues, the Expo signifies a milestone in national development, thanks to the support from the Government through the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Arts, the Ministry of Tourism and the Zambia Tourism Agency. Furthermore, the hosting of the Expo was made possible by what he believes as ‘timely recognition of sport as a tool for development’ by non-sport stakeholders who fully supported the event. He hopes to see more sponsors, exhibitors and visitors for the 2024 Edition.

According to Musunsa, this is a dream come true that inspires him and many other Zambians to never give up on an idea, even as small as a mustard seed. He appeals to young people in sport to work hard and realise bigger dreams.
Lastly, Musunsa thanks his wife and family who remain an important part of the origins of the Expo and sacrificed time and resources towards the event.

Sombwa Musunsa currently works as Programmes Manager at the AUSC Region 5 in Gaborone, Botswana. Previously, he worked as Country Director for Play it Forward, a sport for social change NGO in Livingstone, and as Deputy Director (on secondment) at OYDC Zambia. He has also worked for the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Arts as Lusaka Province Sport Development Officer.
He can be contacted on the following:
Email: [email protected]
Mobile(including WhatsApp: +260955754048

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