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The potential of regional blocs in sport and development

Copyrights: Gabriel Tabona

The potential of regional blocs in sport and development

Sport and development organizations have an opportunity to plug into regional trading blocs to deepen the impact of sport on regional sustainable development.

Regional blocs are formed with the main purpose of easing barriers to trade. In 2020, the Africa Continental Free Trade Area became operational with a goal of achieving a combined GDP of US $3.4 million.

Regional blocs have been considered essential in protecting economies, facilitating free movement of goods, services and people as well as encouraging monetary union. In Africa, different regional trade exists to engender broader social economic and political goals. The Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Southern African Development Community (SADC) are examples.

Intercontinental trading blocs such as the Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa (BRICS) have also existed to maximise on their socio-economic potential while locally, Kenya’s Lake Regional Economic Blocs (LREB) was developed, with the support of Deloitte and Ford Foundation, to have an integrated approach to policies and resource management in respect to sustainable development.

However, differences in political ideology, mistrust and loss of state sovereignty have been cited as some of the main disadvantages in these outfits.

As a result of the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, sport and development will have to embrace synergy with regional blocs if its quest to positively impact lives is to be realized. A case in point is the BRICS trading bloc, which organized an U-17 international football tournament for boys and girls in 2016 and 2018 respectively, on the occasion of an international summit.

However, collaboration with regional blocs in the sport and development sector should not be limited to organizing football tournaments. They should also be incubation hotspots to deepen cultural understanding and build employability skills, to mention but a few.

For instance, the regional football body in East Africa, Council of East and Central Africa Football Association (CECAFA) can team up with East Africa Community and create special economic zones for unemployed footballers in Africa. These economic zones could consist of manufacturing of sports goods such as soccer balls, jerseys, and tracksuits. Sport and development organizations already have the technical expertise to implement such programs; hence a tripartite arrangement would suffice.

Innovation in sport and development must consider climate protection. Harmful human activity in the sport sector has contributed to environmental degradation. For instance, unethical manufacturing processes and disposal of sports equipment have only added carbon footprints, thus overwhelming waste management facilities in developing countries. To alleviate negative environmental impact, sport and development organizations can lobby regional blocs to create policies that will support local social enterprises such as Enda Sports to design recyclable sport equipment. This can be in form of subsidies and facilitating access to markets.

The digital sphere witnessed increased activity during the COVID-19 pandemic, and sport for good organizations were not exempted form it. From organizing training webinars to holding board meetings, organizations demonstrated their willingness to adapt to change. Sport and development has an opportunity to plug into the conversation of monetary union and chart a way forward on how it can tap into online fundraising.



Gabriel Tabona is the creative lead at Spoti Sauti, an online audio content listing platform that strives to expose the sporting profile of Africa. He can be found on Twitter.


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Wednesday, June 22, 2022 - 20:08

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