What if sport was an integral part of “African solutions to Africa’s problems”? The priority of Agenda 2063, adopted in 2015 by the African Union (AU), is the structural transformation of the continent. The sport sector is not mentioned, but sport’s potential to promote social cohesion and inclusion in communities and socio-economic development may contribute to the agenda. Training and capacity building for sports stakeholders, as well using sport to teach basic employment skills, could contribute in a sustainable and innovative way to preparing the African workforce, thus enhancing the human capital of a continent that has a growing population.
Sport: an underexploited development potential
The Africa’s Economic Outlook 2020 report points out that “despite the progress made in recent decades, Africa is still lagging behind other developing regions regarding education and skills development”. This lack of specific training and skills also applies to the sports sector. This is due to a multitude of factors such as: unequal access to quality formal and non-formal education including physical education and school sport; the variable speed of decentralisation processes in national sport systems; sport policies that mostly focus on the development of elite sport to the detriment of amateur sport; and a lack of funding.
This negatively impacts various sports structures’ potential for designing effective policies for local communities and economic development. It is crucial to upgrade the sporting, organisational and managerial culture of sports bodies by building their knowledge on management, facilitation of sports activities and infrastructure maintenance. Moreover, capitalising on sport as a development tool would allow for a sustainable improvement of communities’ prospects in terms of education, employability, health, and gender equality.
Enhancing skills in and through sport
Building capacities in and through sport to achieve development goals is nothing new. Since 1998, in Senegal and the Gambia, SEED Project has been using basketball to train future African leaders. Education, leadership and social responsibility are the key words of the “SEED solution” for “developing countries from within”. In a similar vein, the ISM Group – which is committed to training the African elite of tomorrow through learning excellence – recently signed an agreement with the Spanish professional football league, La Liga, to offer a certified sports marketing programme in Dakar. This collaboration aims to enhance the growth of the sports industry in Senegal and professionalise the sport sector.
In 2019, the Sport Management School, an international school specialising in sports business, opened its first African branch in Rabat, Morocco – this is further evidence that the development of the sports sector in Africa is on the rise. Nevertheless, there are still only limited opportunities that are accessible to everyone to learn how to maximise sport’s positive impact. To address this, sportanddev, the Australian government and the Commonwealth Secretariat launched an online course (MOOC) on sport for development in 2020. More than 3,000 learners from 162 countries have already joined the course, which is entitled “Sport for Sustainable Development: Designing Effective Policies and Programmes”. The AU Sports Council Coordinators have welcomed the MOOC as “a capacity building tool for the region”.
Like Global Sports Week, which since 2009 has been bringing together international sport leaders and agents of change in order to think about the future of sport, these initiatives help to develop the skills of sport actors, to democratise sport and development, and to transform African societies.