Sport and Social Change in Africa

Sport and Social Change in Africa
Jepkorir Rose Chepyator-Thomson

We welcome our network of readers, among them scholars, policy-makers, research scientists, educators, and coaches worldwide to this second issue of The Interdisciplinary Electronic Journal of African Sports, which is devoted to the study of sport and social change.  The contributors to this issue come from sport management and sport development fields.  Their papers focus on Kenya, Morocco and Senegal and provide original insights into how the contemporary human condition is related to sports.  The authors write from the perspectives of outsiders, reading the changing African condition through sport organization, practice, and discourse.  Individually and collectively, these papers highlight the ways in which sport in Africa is influenced by economic forces, political factors, and cultural practices.

Africa, Sport, and Economic Globalization

In the article, Learning to Kick: African Soccer Schools as Carriers of Development, Kate Manzo focuses on African soccer academies as “carriers of development.”  Sport in development brings about changes in economic globalization, among other changes in social and educational institutions in society. Although multinational corporations and political entities in the Global North reap the lion’s share of the profits from trade liberalization policies, sport has, in recent times, brought some small benefits to the people of the marginalized Global South, including African people. The sport of soccer has spearheaded development projects in Africa.
In this issue, Kate Manzo explains how Africans’ sport experiences related to soccer, and the resulting financial, social and educational outcomes that the participants receive have brought monetary benefits to individuals and societies in contemporary Africa. For instance, elite soccer players and track and road-race runners are rare international symbols of African achievement and success, especially those who are temporary or permanent migrants in Canada and the United States, Sweden and England, and in Middle-Eastern countries like Qatar and Bahrain.  Indeed, African sportsmen and women cross the “global space to ply their athletic trades, forming an essential feature of the ‘new global cultural economy.”[1] Several scholars [2] [3] [4] [5] attribute the migration of athletes to Europe and North America to economic factors. Thus in the context of African sport, football players and runners, among others, bring back monetary capital that makes a difference to many people in their own home communities.  Because everyone wants a piece of the monetary pie, including European professional clubs, many soccer academies and track clubs have been established across the African continent in recent times.  As the first article shows, the Diambars Institute in Dakar, Senegal, and Mathare Youth Soccer Association in Nairobi, Kenya, are examples of participants’ desire to use sport to uplift themselves socially in their urban communities, and to employ development discourse to reach all community members without regard to gender or other socially constructed differences.

Africa, Sport, and Social and Cultural Changes

The powerful political, economic, and social consequences of European colonial rule in Africa are still felt today.  With improved leadership in sport management, African sport could generate significant economic and social capital across the continent.  In the second article, Organizational Justice: A Case Study of Female Sport Managers in Morocco, Kimberley Bode uses an organizational justice framework to discuss post-colonial social changes through an analysis of female managers’ experiences with institutionalized practices in sport. She explains ways that could bring Moroccan women into the ranks of sport administration through responsive sport management practices. She advocates changes that are consistent with international trends and potential future developments in Morocco, pointing to the fact that women could become a force to be reckoned with in sport management.
Bode’s work is important because it identifies a contemporary trend in Africa: in small but tangible ways sport has helped to change social and educational outcomes. For instance, increased decision-making power at the political level, income generation, construction of schools, and payment of school fees all have improved opportunities for social mobility among sport participants, with African athletes playing a key role in advocating for empowerment and social change. For instance, Nawal El Moutawakel Bennis of Morocco was the first woman from Africa and a Muslim country to join the International Olympic Committee in 1998; Tegla Laroupe of Kenya is the first known Pokot female in Kenya to build schools for her people. [6] As Chepyator-Thomson [7] argued elsewhere, some “African women [in athletics] have reshaped indigenous familial roles and perspectives to represent their [homeland] countries in world competitions…[and] have expanded their economic, social and cultural roles to allow for participation in nation-state building and development of rural communities.” [8]


1 Bale, J., and Sang, J.  Kenyan running.  London, UK: Frank Cass, 1997, p. 119.

2 Donnelly, P., and Young, K. (1988).  Reproduction and transformation of cultural forms of sport.  A contextual analysis of rugby. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 20:19-38, 1988.

3 Bale, J. The brawn drain: Foreign student athletes in American Universities.  Urban, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1991.

4 Bale, J., and Maguire, J. Sports labor migration in the global arena. In J. Bale and J. Maguire (Eds.), The global sports arena (pp. 1-24). Portland, Oregon: Frank Cass, 1994.

5 Chepyator-Thomson, J. R. Kenyan scholar-runners in the United States: Their thirst for education and intercollegiate experiences. AVANTE, 9(3), 3-39, 2003.

6 Chepyator, J. R.  African women and globalization. Trenton NJ: African World Press, 2005,

7 Ibid, p. 254.

8 Ibid, p. 254.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *