Over the past years sports controversies have filled media headlines and with the recent scandal that hit Kenya at Olympics in Rio, Brazil exposing the problems ailing the sports industry. But Cynthia Mumbo is changing the narrative through her company; Sports Connect Africa. Our writer ESTHER KIRAGU caught up with Cynthia to find out how she is influencing the direction of sports business not just in Kenya but also in Africa.
Cynthia Mumbo is the founder of Sports Connect Africa, a start –up sports Management Company that organizes networking events, workshops, training and mentorship programs for sports stakeholders in Kenya and Africa. Her story begins with the mention of former National sevens rugby team coach, Benjamin Ayimba, who Cynthia says has had the biggest influence on her in matters sports.
“We grew up in the same hood and I remember how he would make me and my friends compete in a race after which he would award the winner with his medals,” she explains of the generous gesture that began to make an imprint on her perspective and love for sports.
Cynthia comes from a home of sports enthusiast and a rather athletic family. As a result they are very competitive, which has helped shape her in terms of excellence. She is particularly amazed by the talent she sees in her younger brother whom she says is partly the reason she started Sports Connect Africa.
“My brother could have played in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for sure but he isn’t. This is because we don’t have a thriving sports industry and so I knew I wanted to be part of creating something great for the younger generation, recognize sports talent and provide opportunities for such to thrive,” she says with much conviction.
Venturing Into The Business Of Sports Management
Despite her sports background, it was not until early this year that this marketer with a bias for sports management ventured full time into the industry. She says, “The last 10 years have been about learning and growing which was necessary in getting me ready to found Sports connect Africa.” And so in February this year armed with her passion and knowledge of sports she quit her job to venture fully into Sports Connect Africa. Cynthia insists that business is about creating relationships and this has come in handy for her as she spent the last 10 years positioning her a brand and building useful relationships.
“It is not just a matter of waking up and starting a business, this has taken years of dreaming and working towards it,” she adds. Having played basketball in the Kenyan League for over 10 years and having had the privileged to be a part of the Kenya Basketball Federation for the over 5 yrs, she understands the plight facing sports in Africa too well.
Handling Corruption and Mismanagement In Sports
“I am cognizant of the hurdles facing the sports industry in Kenya, from corruption, to cartels, funding, lack of infrastructure, mismanagement, doping among many others. But these same hurdles are an opportunity for the sports fraternity to redeem itself and run sports locally in international standards,” she says adding that despite all the challenges at the Olympics Africa managed to scoop 45 medals, which is a depiction of the great opportunities that are in the sports industry.
Aware that one of the avenues of changing the face of sports in Africa is being part of decision making, Cynthia has had the onus of managing the National Ladies basketball team at the 10th All Africa games in Maputo and Mozambique. She was also involved with the management of the Kenya ladies National basketball team and in building partnerships for stakeholders within the sports industry in Africa for the development of the industry and to change lives.
Did you know that between 2010 and 2015, the turnover in sports business was 145 billion dollars globally and less than 5 per cent of that was from Africa? She tells me depicting the enormous potential in the industry that many seem unaware of. One of the recent projects she is proud of was organizing and hosting the 2016 Global Enterprise Connect (GEC), a Charity Corporate Golfing with partners from Dubai and 10 other countries.
Naturing Upcoming Athletes
In addition she helped develop a partnership with the Kenya Basketball Federation, which resulted in the Kenyan basketball receiving a sponsorship of Ksh 12 Million from Supersport and the Rai Group for the 2013 season. Currently she has undertaken the strategic development of Palos FC, a product of Makini School Director, Joe Okello, which was started in 2012 and is dedicated to the development of football skills, encouraging good sportsmanship, physical fitness, positive team play, and the enjoyment of the game according to The Football Kenya Federation (FKF) and FIFA.
Sports Connect Africa is also working in partnership with the NBA to deliver youth basketball programs in Kenya. For Cynthia this is her way of preparing the future generations in international standards for global opportunities.
Sports connect Africa is also presently providing youth mentorship program at the Nairobi International School and has also undertaken a partnership with the West Africa Golf Tour to foster relationships within the Western Africa Golf fraternity and that of Kenya by rewarding golf professionals.
A word To Young Entrepreneurs
It’s unbelievable how much she has achieved within such a short period and she attests her success is driven by faith and passion.
“ I am happy to be part of solution providers and consider people as my greatest resource. I therefore strive to ensure that I create a conducive work environment because when your team is happy then your business will be happy.
Cynthia says she looks forward to the day Kenyans and Africans can become investors in sports as this will go a long way in changing how sports is managed in the continent. She also challenges the media to dedicate a percentage of their sport news to local content, as this will challenge the sports fraternity to get their act together.
Her encouragement to especially young entrepreneurs is, “ to make mistakes, learn from them but do something new daily that will add value in you knowing your craft. And while at it make a difference,” she says in conclusion.