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The African Union Sports Council (AUSC) region 5 is hosting a Covid-19 Community of Partners (CoP) dialogues on Friday 3 July 2020. The dialogue is meant to establish the impact of the pandemic on sport in all the Region’s ten-Member Countries, challenges being encountered and how different countries have dealt with the devastating effects of this deadly pandemic. This dialogue is the first step towards judicious development of a Regional Return-to-Sport Framework that will be used by AUSC Region 5 Member Countries as a reference in the establishment of strategies for sport to slowly resume.

Sport has been on ice for the past three months in the region as a result of Covid-19 induced restrictions. This has caused untold disruptions to various sports leagues, events and tournaments which had been planned for the year, including cancellation and postponement of other major events and activities. With these disruptions, has been drying up of revenue for sport, which is predominantly derived from gate takings and sponsorship in most sports entities and clubs of the Region.

The AUSC Region 5 has noted that various Member Countries are experiencing various levels of restrictions and social distancing regulations in a bid to flatten the curve of infection. This has led to diverse strategies for resumption of sport with each country developing their own specific Return-to Sport frameworks. Given that sport relies on competition among athletes from different countries, the Region has deemed it fit to develop a generic framework that will serve as a guiding tool for countries to use in developing their own specific Return-to-Sport regulations and guidelines. The first step towards development of the proposed framework is to scope in to the status of the pandemic on sport in each Member Country. This will inform the level at which the framework can be developed while at the same time serving as a clearing house for countries to share best practice in dealing with the pandemic during this period of indefinite restrictions.

Commenting on the rationale for hosting the CoP dialogues, the AUSC Region 5 Chief Executive Officer, Stanley Mutoya said, “There is always value on collaboration and knowledge sharing among cooperating parties at both bilateral and multilateral levels. The CoP dialogue presents a rare platform for our key stakeholders to share experiences and buttress their current plans for a calculated return of sport with full understanding of the need to be cautious and uphold safety of the athletes, administrators and technical officials”. Mutoya went on to state that such platforms for dialogue are beneficial in the drive towards a uniform and systematic resumption of sport in the region.

One of the key highlights of the CoP dialogue is that the World Health Organisation (WHO) country office of Botswana and Commonwealth Secretariat will be part of the dialogue. The WHO will be able to share some of the key guidelines for consideration in the fight and management of the pandemic within the sport sector. The Commonwealth Secretariat has been invited to share best practice regarding how the rest of the world is dealing with Return-to-Sport in order for the Region 5 members to borrow ideas that could be applicable in their contexts given the diversity of environments, resources and experiences among different regions and countries.

The AUSC Region 5 has invited Directors of Sport, Chairpersons and CEOs of Sports Commissions/Councils, Presidents and Secretaries General of National Olympic Committees, Regional Anti-Doping Organisation board members, Region 5 Desk Officers, commissions and committees as well as Regional Sports Confederations to participate in this digital dialogue which will be hosted via an online platform. All members invited members are expected to have confirmed attendance before Monday 29 June 2020. This dialogue is one of the many innovations by Region 5 to ensure continuity of sport under these challenging circumstances. This is in addition to other innovative programmes that include the “Morning Doctor” programme run every Wednesday at 10am and e-Fitness programme run every Friday at 8am on Region 5 social media platforms.