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Friday, March 5, 2010


What is the condition of sports in Africa today?....The African sports world is fraught with a myriad of problems. They range anywhere from lack of organization to lack of facilities and most significantly lack of funding and initiatives.

For the last 20 years we have seen the effects of these problems manifest themselves in what one would compare to the "Brain Drain" effect on Africa......  The siphoning of African elite sporting talents to advanced nations mostly in Europe, the Middle East and other nations around the world, through various enticements like; better standards of living, better training programs and training facilities and access to endorsements and big sports contracts.

Notable examples would be Sierra Leonean born Eunice Barber now a French citizen who represented France in international athletics Competitions, Nigerian Born Francis Obikwelu now of Portugal and teenage soccer sensation, Ghanaian born Freddy Adu now of the USA and very many others. Most, if not all professional African soccer stars, play in the European professional leagues.

Is this a problem for developing African nations?  For sure it is a debatable topic all by itself. There are pros and cons to this issue like there are to many aspects of life and I believe one should not rush to judgment and castigate these athletes in any negative light. The corrupt environment from which some of these athletes hail from, is a condition that would stifle the growth to prominence of any athlete around the world. On another hand athletes who don't return to invest and help to improve sports or other facets of life in their land of origin after their acquisition of wealth, know how and connections is also an issue.

We have seen the positive impact that athletes who have achieved at the highest level, can have when they do show concern for their country of origin and return to help. The NBA's Dikembe Mutombo; with the help of fellow NBA athletes and the American Corporate Community built a $30million modern hospital in the Congo, (his homeland) and named it after his deceased mother.When athletes show concern like Mutombo it surely helps to change  the culture of irresponsibility and transform any community and country around Africa.

The issue of 'organization' in African Sports is in my opinion the most prevalent and urgent of all these the problems plaguing sports in Africa.

Without proper planning and execution of sporting events, development projects and management within any organization, club, governing body or national body, sports becomes a non factor within any society.

African sports governing bodies, governmental and non-governmental are seriously lacking in organizational and managerial abilities. Many a time most of these bodies are fraught with the problems of corruption and infighting, and these are issues that will paralyzes any organization.
We have and continue to see the total collapse of entire sports leagues and competitions in many African nations because of these issues.

A lack also of the development of rising national sports talents some of whom eventually end up giving up hope of ever making it or if fortunate gets seen by some international sports scouts that arranges for their eventual migration overseas, is one thing I also believe strangles the development of sports in most African nation.

The critical questions that should be asked here are; what is a comprehensive national solution that any and all African nations should implement to exacerbate these problems. One of the things I have also noticed is that there are no grassroots sports development program for most African nations.
  • Sports should be developed from the ground up, from elementary school to the highest institution of learning.
  • Local leagues and competitions should be encouraged and sponsored by resident international and local companies in each nation.
If the tiny island of Cuba can be such a sporting superpower in the world why are gigantic African nations so lacking.

As far as the issue of sporting Facilities go, this has always been the biggest cancer for most if not for all African nations. Many nations today can only boast of national stadiums that are 30 and 40 years old with no new plans or projects in sight to replace them.
Some have been condemned outrightly as venues of international competitions by FIFA and other international governing sports bodies. Why are there no plans to replace these obsolete structures after 30 to 40 years of collecting revenues from these facilities...... well your guess is as good as mine.
The thousand pound gorilla in the room here folks is ultimately 'corruption', lack of accountability and proper management. Sports is one of the biggest income generators in the world so why are African nations not tapping into this revenue jackpot.

Addressing the problems facing sports and investing heavily in it pays dividends and instead of always looking for handouts African nations like we all believe and agree on needs to start developing and utilizing boths its human and natural resource.
Starting from the very basics developing sports in any nation has to start from the ground up but with a lack of the apropriate infrastructure and organization in place to do that how would we ever elevate sports in most african nations to international standards. One of the most prominent things you would notice in most schools and institutions of learning in Africa is the lack of a sports field or facility of any kind. This problem should be addressed and remedied by instituting a law that should require any and all schools to make adequate provisions for an athletic facility on campus and Physical education should be a lot more properly planned and organized to be result oriented other than just have the kids run and jump around without a purpose.

Funding should be addressed at the legislative level to invest in sports and provide an environment for athletes to train without hindrance which will allow them to maximize their potentials. Overall African nations need to take a deep introspective look at what could help elevate theirs nation to the next level thereby fulfilling their obligations to national development and their citizenry.