DEVELOPMENT TOPICS: Sports development

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The sports economy in Africa can play an important role in socio-economic development. Sports offer hope and inclusion in an often challenging environment, where it may be difficult to escape the effects of widespread poverty. 


Although only certain sporting codes attract significant funding, sports development programmes can reach young people everywhere, protecting youth at risk and providing a sense of social cohesion. Sport can be used to promote education, leadership, gender equality, and other positive values. Such programmes frequently focus not only on sport but also on life skills, access to nutrition, and skills for the job market.  

Sports development not only introduces youth to sporting codes – it also supports the training of coaches, teachers, and other leaders. Although sport represents only 0.5% of Africa’s GDP, compared to 2% of GDP elsewhere, it has the potential to drive economic growth on the continent. 

The importance of investing in sports development  

Private-sector investment in sports development has a powerful effect on communities. It can help to prevent violence and unsafe behaviour among young people, teach social skills, and promote gender equality. UNICEF’s Sport for Development (S4D) initiatives show that inclusive sporting programmes can result in a 77% reduction in violence, 81% improvement in learner attendance and a 76% increase in positive lift skills like teamwork, cooperation and respect.

It makes young people more resilient, improving both their mental and physical health, and combats non-communicable diseases. It can also make a big difference in the lives of marginalised girls and young women, and people with disabilities.


The role of sport in development 


While sport may not seem like a critical investment, given more urgent priorities, it is playing an increasingly important role in development.  

The UN Sustainable Development Goals note the “growing contribution of sport to the realization of development and peace”, with sport explicitly identified as an “enabler of sustainable development”. In some African countries, sports development is being integrated into school curricula, and has become a vehicle for teaching vocational skills for the job market.

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