Other Sports of Mon, 17 Jul 20170
Meet the Youth and Sports Minister Isaac Asiamah
His appointment to the post of Minister of Youth and Sports last February by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo did not come as a surprise to many sports connoisseurs, especially, considering the wealth of knowledge and experience he had acquired after serving on the Parliamentary Select Committee for Sports for several years.
He has been a member of Ghana’s Parliament for the Atwima Mponua Constituency in the Ashanti Region since 2005 and will keep serving his people for as long as they keep giving him their mandate.
He is Mr Isaac Kwame Asiamah. Since his appointment about five months ago, all attempts to get him for a one-on-one interview have proved futile, apparently due to his busy schedules.
But last Tuesday, the outspoken minister granted an exclusive interview to Graphic Sports’ BEATRICE LARYEA at his office at the Ministry of Youth and Sports in Accra, where he touched on some of the challenges that have come with his new job at Ghana’s most controversial ministry, how he plans to fix the challenges, his goals and aspirations for Ghana Sports and family matters, among others. Here are excerpts of the interview.
Finally, we have the opportunity to officially interact with you. Congratulations Mr Asiamah on your appointment as the Minister of Youth and Sports.
Isaac Kwame Asiamah (IKA):
Thank you. I also commend Graphic Sports for your contribution to sports development in the country. Over the years, some of us have enjoyed your publications and we are inspired and motivated by some of the things you write about sports.
How did you receive the news of your appointment? Did it come as a surprise to you?
IKA: Having been a Ranking Member for Youth and Sports in Parliament for eight years and even before that as vice chairman and later chairman of the Sports and Culture Committee, I wouldn’t say it was much of a surprise to me. Considering my contribution to sports development in Parliament and also my contribution to the cause of NPP as a political party over the years, I must say it didn’t surprise me.
It’s been five months since you took over as leader of this ministry and this is your first appointment as a minister of state. How has the experience been like?
IKA: It’s been challenging because expectations are high. Ghanaians are expecting so much from President Akufo-Addo, so it’s quite challenging but we will live up to expectation, I can assure you. So far, I have interacted with so many people in the sports fraternity and I am encouraged by their words of motivation. They all wish me well and, especially, they want us to succeed so I can say that so far, so good.
Aside from being known as one of the longest-serving Members of Parliament and now the Youth and Sports Minister, how do you want to be known or described?
IKA: Well, there should be a lasting legacy for me that I became a minister and when I left there was not a single issue of corruption at this ministry. I remember when the President nominated me for parliamentary approval, he did indicate that he was sending me to a very controversial area. So I hope and pray that no scandal rocks this ministry so that I will leave in peace. I want to make sure that projects that we have in our manifesto are fulfilled so I can leave a lasting legacy that Ghanaians will be proud of.
You have been in Parliament for a couple of years. What are some of the experiences that you can share when it comes to parliamentary proceedings?
IKA: I have been in Parliament for 12 years. I went to Parliament at the age of 29 in 2005 and I was then the youngest MP, full of vim, energy and enthusiasm…hahaha. Anytime I stood up to talk with my strong voice some of the speakers and MPs were much in love with me, especially Madam Speaker, Joyce Bamford Addo. She was very much appreciative of what I was doing in Parliament in terms of contribution on the floor. I was not scared. I was never intimidated. I had the courage and the charisma to stand up and contribute and the records are there for Ghanaians to see.
So with such fond memories, how many more years do you intend to serve as an MP or do you have plans to hang your gloves any time soon?
IKA: As long as the people of Atwima Mponua will want me to serve them. Oh yeah! That will be determined by the people of Atwima Mponua. I have been serving them with humility and much courtesy. I always do things with much decorum. I always visited them and everything that they want from a young politician like me I do it for them. In terms of infrastructural development I have lobbied a lot for them. Before I became an MP there were just about 22 communities that were connected to the national grid but as I speak, about 350 communities are enjoying electrification projects. They are still enjoying infrastructural development, educational scholarships, financial support etc. A lot of the things are what I have done for the people of my constituency so they are highly appreciative although we still need to do more.
Before we delve into other issues, tell us what you are bringing on board or what we should expect from the new Minister of Youth and Sports.
IKA: We have a social contract with Ghanaians as a political party and it is a collective issue not individual. We sold our manifesto to Ghanaians and they bought into our vision so we have to fulfil them. In that contract there are youth development and empowerment programmes, among others, to position Ghanaian youth so that they can contribute their quota to national development. Sports development is well captured in the manifesto. We also want to use sports as a tool for job creation and crime prevention. Infrastructural development is also very key in that regard. I have been here for only five months but investors and businessmen have been here to express interest in all of these developments so I will go to Cabinet and Parliament with proposals and when I am given the approval we will do all those things.
You talked about youth development and empowerment being an integral part of your ministry. What feasible plans or strategies are you going to adopt to ensure that those who are not sportsmen and sportswomen also get their share of the national cake?
IKA: As I said, youth empowerment is key to whatever we do. We have identified that unemployment is a major challenge and if we are not careful it may even disturb the peace and stability we enjoy in this country. We are doing this holistically so each ministry is involved in job creation for young people. The President has told all of us that whatever project we embark on should have that element of job creation. But some of the youth are also unemployable because they lack the skills. So skills development is also important and I am working with the Youth Employment Agency to come up with innovations to train people, which they have started. Last two months or so we were in Kumasi to launch a national programme for skills development and we are targeting the unskilled youth for training and this will be replicated in the districts. Our target is that by 2020 we should have trained about 50,000 young people in various trades and vocations.
Per the 2017 budget, there has been an increment in the money allocated to the ministry but the financial challenges still exist. Why?
IKA: First of all let me thank the President, Nana Akufo-Addo, for that increment which is unprecedented but then we have about 43 sporting federations and they all have their budgets to be met. Meanwhile, for football alone, we have about eight national teams and their proposal for this year is about GH¢63 million. You know that this country is a football-loving nation and we need to support all the federations too. That is why the bonuses of all the national teams have been slashed down by 50 per cent so that we can make some savings to support other sporting disciplines. Considering our financial situation we needed to do that and these things were done in consultation with stakeholders and they all agreed. With the federations too, there is the need to come up with local content. There should be much emphasis on domestic programmes because the federations are for Ghanaians but since I assumed office, 95 per cent of their requests are all on foreign travels to participate in games outside. I am asking them to place much emphasis on local sports events for schools, regional competitions etc. Since we don’t do proper domestic programmes to get proper selections as a nation, we fail to win medals these days at international tournaments. So we are saying that let us develop ourselves qualitatively and quantitatively then if we are able to do that it will reflect in our outside travels. I am asking them to concentrate on developing the games locally.