Monday, September 27, 2021

African universities need to develop sports stars

Olympics have come and gone, but the aftermath leaves time for athlete and sports federations to reflect on achievements and developments.

Only 13 out of the 54 countries on the African continent won medals in the recently held Tokyo Olympic Games. The combined tally was 37 (11 gold, 12 silver and 14 bronze). However, in Rio, five years ago, African teams won 45 medals.

According to International University Sport Federation acting president Leonz Eder’s report to World University News, Africa’s performance at Tokyo suggests that universities could play a big role in sport and talent management.

“African universities need to develop sports stars for the international sports stage similar to institutions in other parts of the world like the United States. Institutions should nurture athletes, build technical and support expertise for national teams, provide world-class training facilities – and use their successes for marketing purposes,” Eder said.

On her part, Peninnah Kabenge, the secretary general of the Federation of Africa University Sports (FASU) argued that sports bodies should not ignore the effect of Covid-19, which has seen many events cancelled and universities closed.

Kabenge added that, “when opportunities arise for competition, Inter-country travel within Africa are financially constraining, making it costly to move national teams around the African continent. The other challenge is low funding for sport within majority of African Universities which is not considered a core activity, which lands in low interest in hosting sports events and poor access to standard facilities and equipment.”

Despite challenges, she pointed out, “University sport has transformed over the past 15 years to strengthen continental activities through multisport games, single sports championships and the promotion of zonal events in the Eastern, Southern, Western, Central and Northern regions of Africa.” 

Kabenge’s proposed measures are the aims of the three-year Sport for Development in Africa (S4DA) Regional Project, that started in July 2019 and will run until June 2022. The project sport and physical activity to equip the youth with life skills to prepare them for future educational and employment opportunities.

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