Like most cities in Africa, the emergence of Selebi Phikwe as a town centered around extraction of minerals, in this case, copper and nickel.
A couple of years back however, all this changed when the Tati Nickel mine was forced to shut down. This left the once blooming town in the periphery of turning into a ghost town as many businesses closed down and people migrated.
Forced into a re-think, the government, through the Selebi Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU) sought to find alternative ways to return vitality to the town. Among the sectors the town looked towards has been the sports and events hosting.
According to SPEDU chief executive officer Jazenga Uezesa, the organization turned to sports and event hosting as it believed in their potential to keep the economy ticking.
Speaking in an interview on the sidelines of the Orange Phikwe national marathon recently, the SPEDU CEO said this approach continues to bear fruit. Since closure, sporting events such as football, softball, motor sport and marathon have helped keep the town alive.
With businesses having shut down and moved after the mine closure, hosting sport and events kept the small businesses alive and families profited. Uezesa said through hosting sport, small businesses, which are the mainstay in the war against poverty benefited.
The SPEDU ceo said the organization finds truth in the words of John Keynes that ‘the war against poverty and economic development can only be won or lost in the informal or the SMME sector.’
“When we host sporting events like the one we are attending right now, the most benefitting sector is the SMME and the informal sector. When we host events, almost 90 percent of expenditure goes to this sector. In essence, hosting events and sporting activities impacts on this most disadvantaged sub sectors,” he explained.
Uezesa said they realized this post closure of the mine in Phikwe. He said as some businesses closed shop, hosting sport and events helped sectors like the hospitality industry keep afloat.
With tourism among the key sectors eyed to diversify the economy of Phikwe, hosting sporting events is crucial. “Hosting sport events boosts tourism. The importance of sport and events can therefore not be underestimated. The sport based economic sector is one of the sectors that easily bear fruit and can be easily used to boost the economy of a region or a country,” the SPEDU ceo explained.
On the way forward, Uezesa said SPEDU, working hand in haNd with the Selebi Phikwe Town Council, they are working on improving facilities in Phikwe. This he believes will attract more organisations to continue hosting events in the region.
In the meantime, he said the organization will continue to partner with the Town Council and sponsors to host sporting events. SPEDU is already one of the sponsors of the Orange Phikwe national marathon and there is hope and belief it will be one of the investors in the sport sector in the Phikwe region.