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Basketballer follows money in sports

Cynthia Mumbo believes Kenya has barely scratched the surface when it comes to exploiting the potential of sports. Through her company she wants to prove there is potential in the industry

Harriet James @harriet86jim

The sports industry in Kenya has been marred by never ending challenges. For instance, there have been various incidences of mismanagement by administrators, lack of structures that support commercialisation of sports as well as lack of knowledge to drive the industry forward.

This is the gloom and doom that 36-year-old Cynthia Mumbo desired to erase from Kenya’s sports industry when she began her company, Sports Connect Africa.

Through marketing, player development and event management, her company seeks to deliver value to sports stakeholders.

“I saw an opportunity to find solutions to these problems. We rarely ever talk about the commercialisation of sport,” she says.

From a young age, Mumbo loved sporting activities, opting to participate in school teams or community games at home. Her main inspiration came from Benjamin Ayimba, former Kenya Rugby Sevens player. He was a neighbour and would always show her his medals to motivate her.

“That inspired me. I really wanted to be like him. I imagined at some point that I would play for the National Basketball Association (NBA) in the US. Talk about dreams!”

And that inspiration compelled her to get into her school’s basketball team, always dreaming of playing in the women’s NBA. She joined State House Girls High School in 1996 and found herself on the court. She was the captain of the team. 

Cynthia has been marketing sports as a viable investment option.

And that didn’t stop there. After high school, she played for ( National Social Security Fund (NSSF) in 2001, United States International University in 2002, Kenyatta University in 2003 and Sameer Africa in 2005, where she began a team together with a friend.

While at Sameer Africa, she joined Kenya Basketball Federation Executive Committee as a co-opted member. She was only 25 then. Eventually, she moved out of town to work for East Africa Breweries Limited (EABL) and that is where the idea for Sports Connect Africa came to her.

“I realised that we have a big deficit in understanding sports on the continent and I thought that through connecting sports stakeholders to each other, to information and to resources that I would be part of creating a positive impact in the industry,” she explains.

Mumbo’s vision is to make individuals in the sports industry and those aspiring to join to earn bread through their talent. Statistics reveal that globally, the value of sports in the year 2016 was Sh151 billion (US$ 1.5 million dollars) while here in Africa the value is less than five per cent of that.

Having worked in the corporate world for over 12 years in sales and marketing for Sameer Africa, EABL and Menengai Oil Refineries assisted her not only to learn about how organisations work, but also interact with people.

Her company offers consultancy services, sports marketing, event management, sports operations management and sport infrastructure development.

“I started with an idea. I didn’t have much. I was the sole employee for a long time, receptionist, accountant, salesperson you name it. I was it. I had just enough money to register the company,” she says. Mumbo says that her greatest challenge starting the business was resources, but she focuses on finding solutions from her mistakes instead of looking at the issues.

“I have learnt to start where I am with what I have. Not having enough people, having people who come to you with the intention of ripping you off. One or two customers that do not pay. The list is endless,” she adds.

Despite the challenges, there are notable achievements that her company is proud of.

For instance, she has been fortunate to have worked with Auma Obama at the SautiKuu Foundation.

She was present when her brother Barack Obama came to launch their project. She also interacted with many other dignitaries including the US Ambassador to Kenya, Robert Godec in 2017, Thierry Henry at the NBA Africa Games in Johannesburg last year and James McAdou  who plays in the NBA. He was in Kenya for the Jr NBA launch.

In addition, she has had the privilege of meeting the former vice president of Spain, Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, the founder of the Women for Africa Foundation.

Through the foundation, Mumbo attended the prestigious Babson Business School in Boston for a course on entrepreneurship. The climax of it all is that she will be awarded a Leader In Sports Award, under 40 class of 2018.

“This is a global award, pretty much the Oscars of sports business. I will be in London later in the year to collect the award. This once supersedes anything I could imagine,” she says.

The sporting landscape is bound to change in Kenya and Mumbo desires to make it become a sustainable local industry that will impact the GDP of the country positively.

“It’s not easy but you have to stay focused. Pick one area where you would like to create an impact and build into it. Success takes time, invest in yourself and in time you will bear the fruits,” she advices

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