The African Union Commission in collaboration with the Republic of Algeria, the Chair of the Bureau of the Specialized Technical Committee on Youth Culture and Sport, convened a Ministerial Virtual Forum on Tuesday 25 August 2020 which brought together the Ministers of Sport, Sport Movement and other stakeholders in Africa to deliberate on sport responses in mitigating the impact of the pandemic, Covid-19, on the continent. A total of eight-six (86) participants which included Ministers from five of the ten African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 Member Countries attended the meeting. Ministers of sport from Angola, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique and South Africa attended on behalf of AUSC Region 5.
Sport in Africa has been adversely impacted by the spread of the corona virus. The conference of ministers therefore sought to explore the potential of sport to provide unique solutions in these unprecedented periods. The importance of remaining physically active and ensuring regular exercise and physical activity for African citizens is regarded as fundamental towards sustaining people’s physical health and well-being. The direct contribution of sport towards improvement of immunity as well mental health has been confirmed by many studies. The conference of Ministers therefore convened to explore ways of motivating people confined in their homes due to covid-19 inspired travel restrictions to be able to enjoy good health and well-being through sport and recreation.
In their deliberations, the African Ministers of sport placed emphasis on the need for governments to provide realistic guidelines on how people can remain active under such a fractured and decimated sporting environment. In addition, the Ministers deliberated to find solutions on how to deal with the growing anxiety regarding the post Covid-19 period as most people mainly athletes keep speculating on whether sport, which is already under financed, will be prioritized for support post covid-19 in Africa. It was in view of these challenges that, the conference of African Ministers of sport sought to draw deliberate and collective action to mitigate the spread of the virus and to develop a strategy for African sport during and post Covid-19 period. The Ministers further sought to develop a continental response on current and post Covid-19 period for sport in African. The indaba also created a platform for exchange of best practices and experience sharing by Member States and the African Sports Movement.
In the presentation on behalf of the AUSC Region 5 Council of Ministers, Honourable Likeleli Tampane, the Lesotho Minister of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation, in her capacity as the Region 5 Council of Ministers Chairperson raised a number of suggestions to be considered as Africa’s response to Covid-19. She noted that the impact of Covid-19 had been experienced at four levels being, Participation in organized sport and physical activity; Social impact, inclusion and equality; Economic development and employment and at Governance of sport level. “Africa needs a risk adjusted strategy to balance between saving lives and sustaining livelihoods in all considerations for return to sport while ensuring that sport satisfies health protocols and requirements of experts to avoid spiking new waves of infections,” said Honourable Tampane. The AUSC Region 5 Council of Ministers recommended the need for African Member States to consider developing responses at Systems and population level, Institutional level and Community level. “As Region 5 Council of Ministers, we recommend with strong conviction the need for African responses to address prevention and containment measures; advocacy and communication; advice and guidance on staying active; economic support packages and return to sport planning,” Honourable Tampane emphasised.
The Conference was officially opened by the African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs, Her Excellency Amira Al Fadil. The indaba was chaired by Algeria Minister of Sports and Youth Sid Ali Khaldi and in attendance were African Ministers of sport, the African Union Sports Council Coordinator Dr. Hikabwa Chipande, African Sports Development Regions Presidents and Secretaries General, Continental Sports Confederations, the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA), the African Women in Sport Association (AWISA) as well as the World Anti-Doping Agency Africa among others.
The Conference resolved to introduce numerous responses among them being advocacy and awareness campaigns to heighten knowledge about the pandemic. Ministers also resolved to ensure that Governments prioritise sport through sustainable funding and creating a conducive environment for sport to thrive during and post covid-19 pandemic. In addition, Governments and the sports movement was implored to provide stimulus response packages to mitigate the covid-19 induced stress and anxiety on athletes and sports bodies. In addition, the African Ministers of sport resolved to institute research to gather empirical evidence and document the contribution of sport towards economic resilience as well as the extent of the impact of the pandemic on the sports industry.