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Nairobi, Kenya

African governments, through legislation, are immensely talented in killing the efforts of organizations which economically empower the youth with skills, developing ideas, interaction with seasoned entrepreneurs and growing their start-ups.

Most of these companies have socially uplifted the lives of thousands of Kenyan youths and increased their hopes of making a living from their talents.

The Kenyan government, in its 2016/2017 draft budget presented in Parliament, made an attempt to slap the betting industry with an astounding 50% tax. This was welcomed by its proponents, top officials in the Ministry of Sports, who thrive in corruption.  The officials cited alleged perpetration of unclear social evil by these betting firms. The sports and culture cabinet secretary, Dr. Hassan Wario, is on record telling betting firms to withdraw direct sponsorships for teams, and instead channel money through the Ministry.

Such directives are enabling mechanisms for government’s plunder of monies meant to support sports teams in Kenya. Betting companies that do not comply with such orders are considered persona non grata by government and will soon be deregistered arbitrarily. According to The Star newspaper, dated 25 August 2016, Wario, following the mismanagement and corruption within government that marred the Rio Olympics, ordered the disbandment of the National Olympics Committee of Kenya and transferred the mandate to Sports Kenya.

It is alleged that up to K88 million meant to cater for the teams playing in Rio was embezzled by top officials in the Ministry. One would argue that this scandal is justification enough for the government to desist from meddling in the affairs of the betting firms of good will in their attempt to support sports teams which the government has through this scandal and more, recorded an epic fail.

Young Kenyan stars in various sports get a chance to gauge their talents against the top world champions in other countries courtesy of the firms that government is trying to kill. A failure in the legislative and regulatory role of government cannot be an excuse to deny the youth this kind of opportunity. It is the government’s role to protect the youth from alleged exploitation by these firms in a manner that does not kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.

It is important to weigh the impact of the proposed heavy taxation to counter alleged social evil vis-a-vis the magnitude of positive results generated by these firms that directly affect the lives of thousands of youths benefiting from the efforts of the firms by getting a platform to discover, develop and earn from their talents. The youth will still access the same evil digitally even if these firms close down, unless they are forced to close down globally. Remember, other jurisdictions are welcoming such investments. Considering the fact that the government has not done much to support sports in Kenya, if betting companies are heavily taxed, they will reduce their spend on sponsorships or abandon them altogether.

This harassment of betting firms by government, if not checked, means that football (FKF, KPL), basketball (BAK), rugby (KRU), motorsports (KMF), boxing and kabaddi teams and leagues, which receive millions of shillings towards improvement and sustenance of the sport, will languish in problems.

With the entrance of betting firms, players and participants in these leagues have been receiving timely allowances and support. They can focus on playing better and the quality of the games has remarkably improved.

Through the impact created by betting firms, clubs have also had quality players from outside the country register their interest to get more involved in the local leagues.

Players no longer go hungry, as used to be the case, when government was solely in charge of financial support for local sports.