During the weeks of the 2022 Commonwealth Games which took place in the city of Birmingham, UK, where Namibia was being represented by 32 athletes, Namibia’s Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service announced the appointment of Ms Jo-Ann Manuel to the position of Director of Sport Development.

Omutumwa took this appointment with a pinch of salt and posed several questions to Ms Manuel.

Omutumwa: Ms Jo-Ann Manuel, you have recently been appointed to the position of Director of Sport Development in the Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service (MSYNS). In few words, what can you say about this responsibility placed on your shoulders?

Manuel: It’s important to remember that my appointment is actually a promotion, as I have been serving in this Ministry as a deputy director since April 2009. Although the task is enormous, I’m of the opinion that my extensive experience in this sector as well as the Ministry, will stand me in good stead.

Omutumwa: As Director of Sport Development, you carry heavy responsibilities in light of the fact that Namibia still lags far behind in terms of sport development both in the form of construction of physical infrastructures and the development of sport administrators, coaching, and medical experts in the various sport codes. How will your role as the Director make an impact in the development of sport in the near future?

Manuel: It’s again important to remember that effective sport development requires the involvement of many other stakeholders. For instance, the construction of physical infrastructures requires closer cooperation between the Ministry of Sort, Youth and National Service, the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, Ministry of Higher Education, Ministry of Urban and Rural Development and also the involvement of sport federations/associations/umbrella bodies.

While Namibia might lag behind in sport development, other countries have the expertise that we need. Towards this end, MSYNS has signed various memorandums of understanding with countries such as Jamaica, Cuba, Germany and others, who have proven themselves in the development of sport administrators, coaching, and medical experts, etc.

Thus, what we need to do as a sport sector, is to collectively exploit these agreements, to ensure that young Namibians, as well as retiring sports persons/athletes, are trained appropriately in the required disciplines.

Additionally, the provision of sport facilities is amongst the tasks the Ministry is required to carry out, but it should not ONLY be left to government. A similar approach to what is currently happening in the health sector, where private hospitals are mushrooming in addition to public health facilities, could also become beneficial to the sport sector. Through public and private cooperation, the country’s sport clubs can be assisted to own sport facilities. Initially, these facilities could start as training facilities and eventually get upgraded to fully-fledged game day facilities.

Omutumwa: In fact, what is your vision and mission, or at least what is it that you are bringing to the office as Director of Sport Development?

Manuel: For long, sport in Namibia has been considered a pastime or hobby, while internationally sport is a billion-dollar industry. Basically, what I will be advocating is for the Namibian sport sector to adopt a more professional approach.

For starters, this will require that the non-ending internal squabbles that have curtailed sport development in the country, must become a thing of the past. Predictability breeds confidence. Sport activities must begin and end on time, every year, which in turn will attract private investors back to investing in sport.

Additionally, closer cooperation between the MSYNS and sport bodies will ensure unity in purpose, thus resulting in harnessing resources intelligently.

Omutumwa: Previously you served as the deputy director for the division of Marginalised People and Women in Sport. Probably that assignment was as much tougher since marginalised people might have been marginalised through various factors which include practices by authorities at the traditional level, local level, and even governmental level. Did you make much impact if at all in that role?

Manuel: Normally, I abhor participating in activities that might appear as if I am blowing my own horn. Notwithstanding, the achievements of my office are there for all to see. The division of Marginalised People and Women in Sport has moved from being an afterthought in the sport sector, to becoming a prominent role player in the development of excellent athletes.

For the last decade, Namibia has produced podium finishes in international disability sport as well as women sport. The likes of Agnes Samaria, Johanna Benson, Helalia Johannes, Ananias Shikongo and Johannes Nambala all have become household names in Namibian sport. Also, the NFA hosted the African Women Championship and recently the Namibian netball team emerged victorious in Singapore.

Omutumwa: Sport development needs money, desire and commitment. As the Director of Sport Development, what should the nation expect during your time in the office in terms of the delivery of money, desire and commitment to sport development?

Manuel: As stated earlier my appointment as the Director of Sport Development is actually a promotion, meaning that I have been around the block for a while now in the Namibian sport sector. Thus, my commitment and desire are already known to those in the sport sector.

However, the rest of the Namibian people can rest assured that I will do my utmost best to ensure that every Namibian man, woman and child has access to participate in the sport code of their choice.

With regard to the financing of sport development, I can assure the Namibian population that, the MSYNS is doing its utmost best, to engage the relevant authorities within government, to address the inadequate budgeting of sport in the country.

Already efforts such as the introduction of pertinent legislative measures are being exploited. Also, efforts are underway where corporate Namibia through tax rebates is being encouraged to also come on board.

In the photo: Ms Jo-Ann Manuel, the Director of Sport Development in the Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service.