Elite in Sport in Africa – AUSC vs ANOCA

The promotion of elite sport in Africa is under siege. The fight between the African Union Sports Council (AUSC) and the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) has recently turned nasty. It is gloves off for the fight for the ownership of the African Games. These games which celebrated their fiftieth anniversary in the place of their birth, Brazzaville, Congo are now a major embarrassment instead of a celebration of African sporting talent. The tension and turf war between the AUSC and ANOCA is driven by self-serving officials who have no interest of the African athletes at heart. If the officials driving this public spate had the interests of Africa and of sport development on the continent, they would have seen the need for compromise and amicable discussions to leverage off each other’s strengths. This is the only way of assisting the development of elite or high performance sport on the continent.

The fact that all over the world major multi-sport continental games are driven and organized by National Olympic Committees (NOCs) is recognition of the role of the Olympic Movement in the development of elite sport. Why should Africa be an exception? However, on the other hand ANOCA should respect the role of African Governments and national sports authorities in terms of the development of the African Games to be a recognized brand. ANOCA should therefore come in to add value to that brand and legacy. ANOCA should not seek destroy it by diluting the influence of Governments.  Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) cannot replace genuine goodwill and desire to collaborate. They are just pieces of paper.

To this end, the AUSC and ANOCA need to stop behaving like small children, calling each other’s bluff as well as issuing vitriolic and toxic communiques. These only serve to alienate the sponsors who are sorely needed in this day and age, if the African Games are to continue to prosper. Both the AUSC and ANOCA cannot run the games by themselves. They need investments from corporate sponsors if the games are to continue as a worthwhile event sporting event on the African sporting calendar. The current mudslinging does not do anyone any favours especially the talented young athletes wishing to make a name for themselves as well as earn a decent living through sport.

Sport is no longer just fun and games. It is now a global multi-billion industry generating wealth and employment for millions throughout the world. Africa is not getting its fair share. The continent is being held back by the old –school “blazer brigade” officials in the AUSC and ANOCA. All what they care about is exercising their power and influence gallivanting all over the world on “official trips”, living 5- star lives , getting colossal amounts of allowances  whilst doing absolutely nothing to improve the plight of ordinary African sports people. It is sad that African sport has been allowed to degenerate into this pathetic state.

Now coming closer to home, the AUSC Region 5 and Confederation of Southern African National Olympic Committees (COSANOC) must avoid the pitfalls that have befallen the continental bodies. Southern Africa has got a fantastic product, the AUSC Region 5 Under 20 Games. It does not matter who originated the games or who owns them. What is important is for all stakeholders to work together to advance sport in the region. The MOU between AUSC Region 5 and COSANOC and the on-going collaboration between the two bodies need to be encouraged and consolidated. At the end of the day, the two organizations are working to serve one beneficiary, the Southern African athlete. The athlete should be the focal point and convergence for all the noble initiatives that are crafted and implemented by the two organizations.

The AUSC Under 20 Games are now a much anticipated feature on the Southern African sporting calendar. However, there is need for continuous improvement and pursuit of excellence in the organization of the event. This can only be possible when all stakeholders are working closely together. The recent salvos fired by AUSC and ANOCA are a good example of what should not be done in the administration of African sport. Officials on both sides of the divide are to blame.  They have all become an embarrassment to themselves and to African sport. No amount of pathetic posturing and public relations gimmicks will undo the damage that has been done. It is just so bad it seems like a nightmare for the innocent African athletes whose opportunities are being trampled upon by the selfishness of both AUSC and ANOCA officials. That kind of scenario should not be replayed here in Southern Africa.  There is great potential for the growth of the Under 20 Youth Games and other noble projects intended to benefit the young athletes.

Southern African athletes should not be denied any benefits simply because AUSC Region 5 and COSANOC are refusing to sit down and talk to each other.  There is Sotho -Setswana saying, “Ntwa kgolo ke ya molomo” literally translated to mean that the biggest war is that of words. Negotiations and compromises are the only way forward for any situation in life. African sport is not exception!  Discussions in a civilized way are the only way out of this big mess created by both AUSC and ANOCA. We can only pray that both organizations continue to engage each other amicably in the interest of sport development on the African continent.

September 2015
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