However, I digress ever so slightly. This is a minor petty point that I allowed myself to indulge in more in disgust than in admiration. I am angry, disappointed and disgusted that local brand All Kasi lost out.
Now I did criticize All Kasi a while back for their failure to deliver enough replica shirts for Zebras fans during the historic appearance of the national team at the AFCON 2012. They obviously were under-capacitated to deliver. This is a reason a lot of people use to try and rationalize awarding the tender to a foreign company. They may well have a point after all we are a nation obsessed with delivery hence the timely delivery of our pink national stadium. In fact as I pointed out in that earlier blog, All Kasi has no one to blame but themselves for losing the goodwill of Batswana. This for me, however, does not mean that they do not deserve a second chance especially in view of the immense potential they were showing in terms of innovative and unique design as well as the popularity they had garnered, an opportunity to create something big for the nation was missed. We are told that AK had proposed a joint venture with BFA where the BFA would have some degree of interest in the company. This would have been great for everyone concerned. The BFA would have had a regular and reliable income stream. AK would have benefitted from the managerial structures of the BFA (limited as they are, they still have some modicum of method compared to the youth run AK).
Even if this is not true, the idea should be explored further. A consortium owned by BFA and All Kasi would be perfect for a nation looking to market itself as a centre of excellence. With the consortium focusing on marketing and distribution and All Kasi focusing on manufacturing this would be a win-win situation. What was crucial here was that BFA should have seen the bigger picture, not just a short-term goal of maximizing on the Zebras brand in the short term. A 15-year deal which would have allowed AK to build manufacturing capacity locally and commit to employing Batswana was what would have been needed. Measly three contracts are not ideal for million pula investment in manufacturing infrastructure. BFA with guaranteed sales from Batswana would have been assured of an alternative and consistent income stream. A project they would have assisted in growing to countries like Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland etc using their relationships with those countries. A unique relationship building strategy that would have increased the visibility of the BFA and its officials. This is a relationship that could well have been grown to a point where even local soccer teams would have cut deals with AK to increase demand. In failing to look beyond short-term money making, BFA denied Botswana and Batswana an opportunity to create something beyond imagination. A truly Botswana creation.
Ironically, what I speak of here is not too different from the relationship that Umbro itself has had with English football. The Umbro brand is so intertwined with the success of English football mostly because of the relationship with the FA. Most of the latest FA projects are being done in partnership with Umbro. It is this sort of relationship that BFA should have been implored upon by the leadership to consider when taking up a kit sponsor. The reality is Zebras will be a side for Umbro. The rather ugly and somewhat old fashioned design that Umbro has come up with should be enough evidence that we will not be seeing a lot of Batswana taking to wearing the replica shirts on ordinary days. The All Kasi T-shirts are a thing of beauty and are inspired by how we as a people define beauty. This is crucial to national pride and support for the national team. More importantly, this would have had the added advantage of empowering Batswana.
Now some people may want to sound smart and casually throw around clichéd lines like ‘this is business’ without considering that in the long term helping build the capacity of a local company would have been better business. The emotional tie to AK cannot be dismissed as irrational patriotism. It would have been a critical factor in growing the Zebras brand, BFA and AK’s income and more importantly, Batswana could have led the way, we would have joined the likes of the England, USA and Germany who all have unique longstanding relationships with locally developed Brands Umbro, Nike and Addidas. It may not always provide success on the pitch but the sheer movement of units has proven a much needed windfall for the football associations. As a country we could well have innovated and not have waited for South Africa to do it before we follow suit. But of course will remain a dream, useless in a country where dogma is a revered ideology. A country with leadership so desperate to belong that they are so incapable of independent thought.