The Africa Golf Summit, held at the Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Resort, near Johannesburg, saw some 90 industry figures from seven African countries come together with their European contemporaries to discuss and debate the way forward for the game throughout Africa.
In all, 11 countries were represented and these included a number of the golfing unions from various parts of the continent and a very strong representation from South Africa – Golf RSA, the Professional Golfers Association, the Disabled Golfers Association, and the Club Managers’ Association, among others, as well as the Sunshine Tour and SuperSport TV – together with five experienced European specialists.
Steve Isaac, golf course management director of the R&A, was accompanied by Paul Gray, general manager of Holywood Golf Club, in Northern Ireland, the home of Rory McIlroy; Jonathan Smith, CEO of the Golf Environment Organization, Henrique Duarte, Portuguese distributor for Toro, and Howard Swan, golf course architect at Swan Golf Designs and chairman of the Golf Consultants Association.
The Summit was well supported by many organisations in the commercial sector, both local and worldwide, with both Ransomes Jacobsen and Rainbird to the fore.
The presentational and panel sessions across the two-day programme were compiled by Kwakye Donkor, of the Regional Tourism Organisation of Southern Africa (RETOSA), and Swan, and organised by specialist event management company, Pure Grit.
A large part of the event focused on the state of the game, the provision of its facilities throughout sub-Saharan Africa and how the game could be grown and its base widened to involve many more people, particularly those from the disadvantaged communities as well as, specifically, young people who may be given the chance to join the game.
Career path and life and social skills development stemming from the game and the establishment of facilities was also high on the list in the hours of discussion and debate, as was seeing how more women and children could become golfers.
Donkor said: “It has been some time since I was responsible for the running of four consecutive South African Golf Summits, at the Fancourt Golf Estate, in the Cape. I always felt that the gathering together of experts from all over the continent as well as from Europe would greatly benefit the development of golf in Africa and I am simply delighted that the Summit went so well, and from it a real action plan is coming about.
“I have little doubt that autumn 2016 will see the second Summit and we will be able to review just how much progress we have made in moving golf forward from its embryonic state throughout the sub-Saharan countries.”
An enthusiastic accord was struck between all the delegates to explore ways of giving the game to more people who otherwise did not have the opportunity to experience it, and a declaration of intent was drafted to set out an action plan.
It was agreed by the interested parties attending the Summit that this intent is one which will need to meet certain aims and objectives and to meet with the stated objectives of national and provincial governments throughout the continent.
These include being a catalyst for economic development; a creator of job opportunities; employment and enterprise development; achieving transformation in communities; obtaining social cohesion and enhancing the natural environment, including resource allocation.
Other initiatives to emerge from the Summit agreement included a study investigating the value of golf throughout the continent; development of a strategy for golf tourism in Africa; the compilation of a golf development strategy document for Africa; and an action programme for marketing and promotion of the status of the golf industry in Africa.
Consequently, three initial Centres of Golf Excellence for Education and Vocational Training have been identified – one in South Africa, one in Nairobi, Kenya, and one in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria.
Swan added: “Those at the Summit were so enthusiastic about putting the game on the African map, with the Olympic year ahead, and seeing how building blocks could be put in for a solid future in place to achieve a real presence of the population in golf, just as the continent has achieved in providing talent on a true global scale in football. Optimism abounded!”
Jonathan Smith, Chief Executive of Golf Environment Organization told Golf Business News.com: “The Africa Golf Summit brought together a broad cross section of people to discuss some of the key issues affecting golf in South Africa and across the Continent. From participation to popularity, integrity to investment, and sustainability the emphasis was on mapping out the issues, sharing ideas and talking about solutions for the future growth, success and viability of the sport. We’re looking forward to supporting the next stages, as sustainability action plans take shape for grass roots facilities, new developments, tournaments and tourism.”
The Summit was accompanied by visits to local clubs including the Legend Golf Resort, in Limpopo, and the Soweto Country Club, in the famous township in Johannesburg itself.