The International Table Tennis Federation has placed Kenya as a cornerstone of its developmental agenda in Africa once again by giving her the nod to host the inaugural East Africa Region meeting slated for February 18 in Nairobi.
In a letter sent through ITTF-Africa addressed to member federations, the main agenda of the meeting will be to harmonize table tennis activities in the region in a bid to promote the fast growing sport.
All 13 member federations have been invited for the meeting that is set to forge a new path for the East African region.
Some of the countries expected to be represented include; South Sudan, Sudan, Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Madagascar, Mauritius, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Uganda along with hosts Kenya.
This will be the second major event to be hosted in Kenya after ITTF gave the rights to host the ITTF-Southern Africa Hopes Week & Challenge Tournament that was held in March 2016.
“In an effort to be able to come up with programs that will see the growth of table tennis in our region, the Kenya Table Tennis Association will host one representative preferably either the President or Secretary General of member countries within the region to a one day Eastern Region meeting that seeks to address issues affecting our region,” the letter reads.
The programs to be formulated will cut across the member federations and will be majorly based on talent identification for the upcoming players, making more equipment available in the region, training of both officials and players.
More regional tournaments
Also on the agenda is setting up of more regional tournaments to further expose the players to the sport.
ITTF-Africa has identified KTTA Chairman Andrew Mudibo as one who has played an integral part in developing the sport. Mudibo’s input and effort was crucial in the formation of the ITTF-Eastern Region in October 2016 during the ITTF general assembly meeting in Morocco.
Mudibo, a certified ITTF international umpire, has been involved in a number of table tennis projects here in Kenya most notably the one dubbed “Tucheze Tebo” that is an initiative started in 2015 to encourage young people to take up table tennis.
With an initial budget of Ksh.3 million, the idea behind it was to introduce the sport from the primary school level. It has grown since with many local tournaments being hosted and also a well structured national league to make it competitive.
“The meeting is a wonderful opportunity for us from this region to come together and strategize as we look to develop table tennis. Our focus is firmly in the youth as they are the future generation. This is one of the many things that we have planned and it is a matter seeing our plans through,” he said.
Lack of sponsorship
However, there have been several challenges given that table tennis is not popular in many countries. Mudibo has attributed that predicament to lack of sponsorship to the sport as a whole.
Moreover, the various governments have not stepped in to adequately support table tennis and he admits that it has derailed their quest to effectively enable more people take up the sport.
In a statement released by ITTF-Africa Regional coordinator Michael Brown, he has urged the member federations to attend the meeting as it will be crucial in strengthening ties among them.
“This is an important milestone in the future development of table tennis, not only in East Africa, but for the entire continent of Africa. Large support is being offered towards each of the regions to assist with the establishment of Regional Championships, which will also act as qualification events towards the ITTF-Africa Cup,” Brown concluded.