In the later parts of 2013, the fourth zone in Africa was created as the Zone 4.4, and this ensure Africa was broken into 4 different zones of chess playing nations. This took Nigeria away from the Egyptian group and put her in a group where she is firmly ahead of, as evidenced by the results whenever a Nigerian is participating in most of the events.
Since its inception, the zonal chess championship has produced two (2) new International Masters in IM Anquanda Francis of Ghana in 2014 and IM Balogun Oluwafemi of Nigeria in 2017. While the 2015 and 2016 editions were won by IM Adu Oladapo.
Although the male players have been having a good number of participations to guarantee the title awards, it has not been so in the female section and this 2018 edition of the zonal championship bills to change this.
Over the years, in the female section, it has either been one or two countries that participate in the event, and why would the ladies spend their money to come for such a prestigious event, when they are not being properly remunerated? This, I believe was their grouse and the reason why most ladies choose not to make the trip, aside from the fact that most participating players literally sponsor themselves for these events, with little or no sponsorship, because most federations would tell you that they have no funds to sponsor anyone for these events.
But alas, the ladies have more to gain than just the mere peanuts being provided as cash prizes. With a good number of participants from various chess playing nations in the zone, the Woman International Master (WIM) title can be won, alongside the Woman Fide Master (WFM) title and the Woman Candidate Master (WCM) titles. And these should ginger federations and individual ladies to ensure that their nations are ably represented, even if it would be a single representative.
As it stands, a Nigerian individual has indicated interest in sponsoring a lady from a few Zone 4.4 countries to this year’s zonal chess championship, which gives hope to the lady’s section of the zone, that they would bag their titles this year once the required number of participating countries are met.
Even though this individual is able to sponsor a lady to this event, it would really be a good thing if the zone 4.4 countries take it upon themselves to also sponsor or ensure that they make it 2 ladies from their country.
This would give a good boost to host countries and show that we all are indeed working towards the development and growth of the sport in our various communities. And more countries would bid to host these tournaments.
This brings us to the bidding process for the continental events. The Africa Chess Confederation needs to work on the bidding process for continental championships so that it follows due process. By now, we should already have those organizing the 2019 events, and bidding for the 2020 events should be able to commence before March 2019.
A lot is changing on the global scene and Africa can not afford to be left behind. We need to become more proactive as a continent and as nations within the continent. Even though there is the believe that sponsors are hard to come by, organizers need to get off their comfortable seats and find the brilliant proposal developers and offer them a percentage of the sponsorship, find the guys and ladies with connections that may lead us to the top organizations and have a deal struck, get those publicists and put them to good use.
It is time to change the way we have been taking chess, as just a game, and take it as a business venture. Yes, chess is a life changing tool, but it should also be a money making venture, for the sponsors, the organizers and the players.
We need to start signing memorandums of understanding, major contract deals and giving major corporate organizations something in exchange for their money. This is the only way we can get the major sponsorship deals that will propel chess to the heights that we want it to get to.
We can not be hosting a continental event in a hotel, and the hotel would not be a sponsor no matter how little (the rooms have to be hugely subsidized and the hall should not be paid for), why, you may ask? Because we would be giving a continental publicity and making the hotel more popular on the continent, especially when they have branches in other countries.
These should be our focus and goal going forward. Let us find what is peculiarly needed by each prospective sponsor and find a way to make it available for them, because value responds to value, and it is only when you give value that you get value in return (in cash or kind).
I was able to catch up with the Zone 4.4 President, Mr Ameku Philip, and here are his responses to the questions put forward to him:
What is your view about how the zone has run until your election, and what do you plan to do differently?
“I would like to first of all commend my predecessor Monsieur Michel and the ACC President Mr Lewis of course, for the hard work they put into creating this zone in 2013. As a new zone, you would expect most things to be at its initial stages. I am okay with how far we have come as a zone, but I noticed the zone lacks a structure. Considering that we have to catch up with other zones of the world, we need to start implementing specific programs that meet our needs as a zone and thats the first step”
How do you plan to ensure the participation of ladies in zonal events?
“Ladies participation in zonal events is a major challenge compared to their men counterparts. I would not want to blame any particular federation, but I believe we can have one short term and one long term solution. Firstly, as federations, we should be able to give special support to women who travel for events as a short term solution, and for the long term, let us ensure our chess in schools programs have room for massive girl child participation. The idea is to expose both boys and girls to equal level of training and exposure, as well as convincing the parents of the benefits of sponsoring their girl child for events.”
How do you plan to restructure the zone, such that countries will bid for events ahead of time and sponsorships/partnerships will be seen in the zone?
“This is a good question and had given me an idea of opening bids for all the 4 years ahead of us. This should enable host countries to be able to secure sponsorships ahead of time. For now, we only have two zonal events for the whole year. I would propose us to play a zonal team championship, which will be played in non-olympiad years. This initiative has already started in Cote D’Ivoire, and I believe we should make it a flagship event. However I will suggest a team composition of two males, two females with two subs. Another area that needs attention is marketing and media coverage, this is the only way we can reach out to the public as well as attract sponsors.
Let me use this opportunity to appreciate Africa Chess Media for the great initiative to ‘Get Chess Out of The Woods‘. I will be happy to collaborate with you in many ways”
After the interview, I believe it is time for us to work together so as to ensure that more ladies participate in our zonal championships and also in other continental events, because apart from the titles they stand to gain, the exposure it provides, it also gives the ladies travel experiences and external challenge experiences, which helps them develop and evolve as individuals and in turn helps others within their various countries.
Anyone who wishes to support this clarion call to support the ladies for the zonal championship coming up in Burkina Faso from the 12th to the 20th of December, kindly get in touch with the Zonal President, Mr Ameku Philip, for more details as to how.
This is a call for female chess development and the evolution of Africa Chess in general.
Let us work together to give chess the value it deserves in Africa.