I have always debated with myself on naming national assets after politicians deemed to have been behind those assets. I found thoughts by Tulipo Mwenelupembe insightful and I could not help share them with you.
In May 2015, there was a heated debate in Parliament on the naming of the Chinese-funded stadium in Lilongwe. The People’s Party (PP) insisted since the construction works of the stadium commenced in their era, the stadium should be called Joyce Banda National Stadium while the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government advised the opposition that the late Bingu wa Mutharika “originally founded” the project, therefore, it should be named Bingu National Stadium.
The naming of national assets in honour of people who played a part in the development of the country is essential in remembering the efforts they made in fighting for democracy, peace, infrastructure development, education and so on. A number of national assets have been named after influential Malawians, politicians and freedom fighters. We are proud of these amazing Malawians and the contributions they made to the development of Malawi. But, moving deep into the 21st Century, other countries and organisations have started commercialising their assets by selling naming rights. Malawi can learn from these countries and organisations to rake in additional revenue to government departments responsible for maintaining these assets.
As per the definition from Wikipedia, ”naming rights are a financial transaction and form of advertising whereby a corporation or other entity purchases the right to name a facility or event, typically for a defined period of time. For properties like a multi-purpose arena, performing arts venue or an athletic field, the term ranges from three to 20 years. Longer terms are more common for higher profile venues such as a professional sports facility.”
In some countries, this practice is common and it has led to the generation of millions of United States dollars for governments and organisations. In Europe, Emirates Airline signed a deal worth millions of dollars with Arsenal Football Club to secure naming rights of Arsenal’s stadium, now called the Emirates Stadium. Other deals in Europe include the Etihad Stadium, home to Manchester City Football Club and the Macron Stadium, home to Bolton Wanderers Football Club.
In the US, naming rights are also common in event facilities and public assets. For example, American Airlines arena (a multi-purpose indoor arena), Gillette Stadium (football stadium), Honda Centre (multi-purpose indoor arena) etc.
In Africa, the best example is in Johannesburg South Africa, where the Soccer City Stadium is named the FNB Stadium. FNB secured the rights to Soccer City, nicknamed “The Calabash”. Soccer City hosted the opening and final games of the 2010 Fifa World Cup. Another famous venue is the Coca-Cola dome (a multi-purpose indoor arena) in Johannesburg. A range of events such as international music acts, plays and award shows are hosted at this arena.
Back to Malawi, why not us? The government owns assets such as BAT ground and Kamuzu Stadium which are in a dilapidated state due to lack of funds to maintain them. BAT ground was allocated about K20 million of tax payers’ money for maintenance but the funds disappeared and the facility is in a sorry state. Instead of using tax payers’ money for maintaining some of these assets, proceeds from naming rights would do the trick.
The giant Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe is a modern structure which means a lot of maintenance costs will be involved. Government through the Ministry of Sports should consider selling naming rights to corporate citizens in the country. I believe these can pay between K15 million and K25 million per annum on a three to five year contract to secure rights of this magnificent facility. I noticed the roof of the stadium is painted plain but visible to pedestrians and drivers passing through the Area 18 Area 49 road can therefore be painted with the brand colours of the rights holder.
The same arrangement can be done for the Bingu International Conference Centre (BICC) indoor arena and other facilities.
Probably someone is thinking I do not appreciate the late Bingu wa Mutharika’s legacy or DPP government’s development efforts since my two examples have Bingu’s name. Well, you are wrong. I appreciate what Bingu did for this nation. The Malawi University of Science and Technology (Must), the national stadium, Umodzi Park, Lilongwe Bypass Road, and so on and so forth are some of his ideas. He had a great vision for this country and I am thankful of his contributions. However, let us name some infrastructure which we cannot sell the naming rights after our dear late president—the VVIP stand at the national stadium can be named after him.
What do you think? n