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fostering inclusive communities through sport and Olympism


04 Apr 2023 – The International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (IDSDP), on 6 April, provides a fitting platform to celebrate how sport is serving young people and underprivileged communities on a daily basis, embodying the universal nature of the IOC’s mission and the Olympism365 strategy.

The Olympafrica centres in Africa, run by the Olympafrica Foundation, are an example of how sport can drive positive changes and offer education opportunities to younger generations across the continent.

On any given day, the Zambian Olympafrica Centre, located in the grounds of the Zambian Olympic Youth Development Centre in Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, will welcome up to 1,000 children – many from difficult economic backgrounds. At the Centre they have the opportunity to take part in not only a varied programme of 12 sports – from football to taekwondo – but also a range of educational and social activities.

The Zambian Centre is one of more than 40 run by the Olympafrica Foundation spread across over 30 countries, with a further nine centres under construction. Created in 1988, the Olympafrica Foundation is dedicated to enabling African countries and their communities to benefit from the positive impact of Olympism, and has become a powerful vehicle through which the Olympic values are promoted across the continent. Run by the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) and supported by the IOC, its core mission is to promote social development by increasing access to opportunities – both sporting and social, economic and educational.

Local networks driving development

Tinyiko Lucert Kamanga, the Director of the Olympafrica Centre in Zambia, has seen its impact first hand. “Working at the Centre, I have had the opportunity to see what sport can bring, and the values it teaches,” explains Kamanga. “It can literally transform your sense of thinking, on the field and off it. That’s the power of sport.”

Fundamental to the work of the Foundation is a powerful sense of community. Kamanga is the Zambia Centre’s only full-time employee, but she is supported by a cast of volunteers: a team of 40 young leaders trained in the Olympic Values Education Programme (OVEP), plus 12 volunteer coaches and 10 community teachers.

All corners of a vast continent

Despite the differing contexts, the aim remains the same at each of the Olympafrica Foundation’s centres: empowering local communities through the Olympic values.

The Soubré Olympafrica Centre in southern Côte d’Ivoire offers a programme of 17 sports disciplines and five socioeconomic activities. There is even a school on site, alongside a nursery and a canteen. Officially, around 10,000 young people are enrolled at the Centre, with 550 of those at the school and nursery, but in reality it serves many more. While sport is a large part of the Centre’s work – a recent wrestling tournament was attended by 2,000 children and young adults, including 500 female wrestlers – the school and nursery are powerful examples of the Olympafrica Foundation’s commitment to wider social development. It is one of three schools run by the Foundation, with the other two in Mozambique and Mali.

The school has since become part of the national educational system in Côte d’Ivoire. Daniel Anzara, the Centre’s Director, has witnessed the multi-dimensional impact the Centre has on the community, and the ripple effect it has created.

“Parents thought that it would be a good idea for the children to get food during the day, and that’s how the canteen started,” Anzara says. “Then, to help provide food for the canteen, we started a rice farming programme. This year, we extended that agriculture project to include cassava and maize, with around 40 people signed up and benefiting from jobs.”

Olympism365 in action

It is through initiatives such as those in Soubré and Lusaka that the Olympafrica Foundation is helping to drive increased and more equitable access to sport and its benefits in the areas of education, health and economic stability, demonstrating its contribution to the Olympism365 strategy’s “sport, equality and inclusive communities” portfolio.

For Anzara, the support from the Olympic Movement empowers his day-to-day work. “Being associated with the Olympics has an impact,” explains Anzara. “It’s universal, it’s about civility, fair play, love, being together. Olympafrica means Olympism for Africa. It’s truly about the strength of sport, and the help that sport can bring.”

Thanks to the work of Anzara, Kamanga and the Olympafrica centres all across the continent, thousands of young Africans feel the impact of Olympism every day.

This is an edited version of an article originally published in Olympic Review.

Olympism365 is the IOC’s strategy aimed at strengthening the role of sport as an important enabler for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS). The themes and priority areas for Olympism365 reflect the role that sport and Olympism in society can play for the SDGs by contributing to creating healthier and more active communities, more equitable, safer and inclusive communities, peacebuilding, and education and livelihoods. 

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