Open Letter to New ANOCA President

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By Andrew Bonani Kamanga

Congratulations to you, Mr Mustapha Berraf on your recent election to the post of President of the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA).

There is no doubt that you have also received thousands of congratulatory messages from Africa and from all over the world. Therefore, the Southern Times Africa Sports Forum shall steer well away from flattery and boot-licking. It will not help you, Mr President and for sure, it will not help ANOCA and the African Olympic Movement.  

Elections are over. Now the hard work of building the organisation starts in earnest.  There is a need for the new president to establish and drive a dynamic, vibrant and inclusive organisation to revitalise the African Olympic movement that has, for so long, been dogged by controversy, one way or the other.  There is no doubt about ANOCA’s place in sport on the African continent. However, there is doubt whether ANOCA itself is aware of its place in sport on the African continent. The organisation has been run like a tuckshop or corner shop with very little or no accountability. Given the organisation’s track record, your election is a symbol of a fresh start and turning a new page in the history of ANOCA.

The decades-long fight for turf supremacy with the then Supreme Council for Sport in Africa (SCSA), which is now the African Union Sports Council (AUSC) has caused ANOCA to lose focus of its core mandate.  It is heart-warming to note that there is now an agreement on who should be in charge of the African Games after years of unnecessary wrangling. Ownership of the games is still vested in the AUSC but ANOCA will be in charge and in full control of the African Games starting with the 2019 edition to be held in Morocco.

Every sport lover on the continent fully knows that the continental games previously known as the All Africa Games had of late become a monumental joke.  Instead of being a great gathering and celebration of the best of sporting talent on the continent, the African Games have been a major embarrassment. In most editions of the games, the world-class Africa superstars did not bother to attend the African Games. It was a sorry waste of their time!

Hopefully, the President and his team will work hard to improve and transform the games to make them a real major and much-anticipated event on the African sporting calendar.

There is no doubt that the tension and turf war between the AUSC and ANOCA has been largely driven by self-serving officials, who did not have the interests 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 a long time ago.

The fact that all over the world major multi-sport continental games are driven and organised by National Olympic Committees (NOCs) is recognition of the role of the Olympic Movement in the development of the elite sport. Why should Africa be an exception?

However, on the other hand, ANOCA should respect the role of African governments and national sport authorities in terms of the development of the African Games to be a recognised brand.

ANOCA should, therefore, come in to add value to that brand and legacy. ANOCA should not seek to 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. The two organisations need to work together to improve the organisation of the African Youth Games and the African Games.

ANOCA has great potential to be a force for good on the African continent.  High-performance sport has the potential to make a strong and lasting impact on the continent utilising the African Youth Games and the African Games. Mr Berraf, you need to spread the message that we are not Arabs or Christians, Muslims or Anglophone, Francophone or Lusophone. We are Africans, first and foremost. What unites Africans is much stronger than the artificial divisions which are accentuated by those who seek to benefit from African disunity and fragmentation. ANOCA must be unequivocal in its calls for peace on the continent. It is difficult to promote high-performance sport where guns are being fired and bombs are exploding everywhere.

High performance or elite sport is not a luxury. It is a human right. Every talented individual must be given all the support that he/she needs to develop their full potential. Sporting excellence should not be a preserve for a privileged few on the African continent but the basic right and opportunity of every young boy and girl who dares to dream. Mr Berraf, you have a very hard and tough road to travel. Do not be discouraged as you have a lot of people who will support you on this journey if you really respect and engage as many of them as possible. As wise Africans have stated, “If you want to go somewhere fast, go alone. If you want to go far, travel with others”. Good luck to you in your work, President Berraf!

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