Lord Digby Jones returned recently from South Africa and Kenya where he combined business with pleasure. “That’s if you can call sitting through the nail-biting finishes of the British and Irish Lions Test matches versus the Springboks a pleasure” he quipped.
He addressed a business audience in Cape Town about the wonderful social effect of sport on communities. The FIFA Soccer World Cup Draw is being held there on 4th December, as is the Opening Game and one of the semi-finals. Digby encouraged businesses to work even more in the communities of both South Africa and the UK to develop the talents of young people, maximise their potential and give them purpose in their young lives. “Business, like sport, can be a “route out” for these kids; It employs, it trains, it pays… it enables the necessary self-respect to grow and deliver self-perpetuating role models to the benefit of the whole of Society.
His speaking tour continued to Johannesburg where he addressed an event promoted by the Chamber of Commerce and HSBC in which he commented on global issues. ” South Africa’s time has come” he said; ” Whether it is climate change, Aids, the Doha Development Agenda for freer trade or the move to a knowledge-based economy, South Africa is on the page.
He also addressed the Durban Chamber of Commerce at a business breakfast. Speaking to a hundred businessmen and women Digby congratulated them on delivering one of Africa’s sporting capitals with a Lions test and a world football cup semi final. He stressed the importance of skills and training explaining that a drive to make cheap things more cheaply will never deliver prosperity whereas skilling tomorrow’s working generation ensures Durban will sell on innovation and brand, on knowledge that is unique. The geographical position of Durban means it is closer to the 21st century major markets of India and China than any other city in South Africa and the businesses of Durban should grasp that chance with both hands.
South Africa is too important to be ignored, South Africa has a huge contribution to make in a challenging world.”
Digby, in his capacity as a Director of Leicester Tigers Rugby Club, visited the Nondescripts Rugby Club in Nairobi as part of a programme organised by the East Africa Womens League, a registered charity with members across the country. He presented them with a couple of Tigers shirts ahead of a consignment which is on its way to the Club – the rugby kit donated by Tigers UK is worth many thousands of pounds and will help the development of youth sides at one of the oldest rugby clubs in Kenya. Some of the clothing and kit will also help with the Nondies Community Programme.
“Rugby is such a wonderful sport. It has a set of values which reaches out away from the pitch and can help develop young people to be such useful members of the community” said Digby. He went on: “teamwork, looking after each other, respecting authority and not arguing with the referee, being courteous to the opposition … all these are values you find in rugby that can help in the wider context.”
“Throughout my life rugby has introduced me to different people from different parts of society and from different parts of our world that have enriched my experience and allowed me to make friends that have lasted a lifetime.” he told the leaders of the club. And Digby made some new friends in Kenya that day!