Leveraging trade agreements to develop sports
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Leveraged correctly, socio-economic innovations such as trade policy agreements play a monumental role in the developing the sport industry, as well as in development through sport.


Sport, and by extension the sport industry, do not exist in a silo, but as part of their environment, which, in turn, affects it. Among some of the forces informing the sport industry’s external environment and over which the industry has no control are economic, geopolitical, societal and technological changes[1], with Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) being one instance of those forces.

Positioning AfCFTA in the Sport Industry

Recently featuring within the African socio-economic development narratives has been the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). Leveraged correctly, socio-economic innovations such as trade policy agreements play a monumental role in the developing the sport industry, as well as in development through sport.

In fact, the natural links between sport and its external environment, as embodied by FTAs, is not entirely unheard of. In the European Union (EU), for example, the development and prosperity of its member states is based on a foundational lineage that is buttressed upon free trade. It is also further affirmed by the so-called four freedoms, extending to free movement of goods, free movement of services, free movement of capital and free movement of people.[2] Generally, the benefits of free trade have been said to encompass investment and  job creation, low costs of doing business, innovation and technology[3]For the sport industry, these benefits are no different.[4]

Against this backdrop, AfCFTA is enveloped within the African Union’s agenda 2063, broadly aimed towards sustainable socio-economic development on the continent. Drawing from learnings of other regions, sport and specifically the sport industry, is one way through which AfCFTA can attain these socio-economic development ambitions – but how so?

Leveraging AfCFTA

AfCFTA conduces benefits that can affect the sport industry and also development through the sport industry in Africa. In concrete terms, AfCFTA protocols create rules and regulations for free trade that, among others, the sport market can benefit from, just like any other African business.

AfCFTA for sport development

AfCFTA can advance sport development in Africa along the following lines:

  •  Attracting of investments: these can be targeted to different sectors of the sport industry i.e. the manufacturing sector, to allow innovative through new product lines. Investments can also be channelled towards sport facility development, which will help develop the quality of sport infrastructure.
  • Technology and innovation: ensure increased adoption of technology required by the sport industry, for instance as it relates to manufacturing sporting goods.
  • Trade in locally produced sport products: lower trade tariffs will make it easier to grow intra-African trade in sporting goods therefore promoting local manufacturers.
  • Free movement of personnel: helps sport leagues recruit the best coaches and athletes. This will generate a snowball effect ,as it helps attract more fans, which would see media broadcasters flock for partnerships as they can generate more income. This would ultimately lead to  enhanced revenue streams of revenue for leagues and clubs from the sale of broadcasting rights.

AfCFTA for development through sport

AfCFTA can help ensure development through sport along the following lines:

  • Job creation for sportsmen and coaches across the continent
  • Foreign direct investment as a result of sport tourism resulting from the unfettered free movement of people/sports fans
  • Job creation in other sectors linked to sport i.e. hotel industry, which links with sport tourism

Overall, job creation, sport tourism, investments, enhanced intra African trade in sporting goods and services, as well as selling of media broadcasting rights would all culminate to help African countries develop a sport economy that can contribute to the growth of domestic product, comparable to other developed countries.

Further, AfCFTA can work towards the inclusion of youth and women.

  • On youth, AfCFTA would help promote opportunities in the sport industry, as they have a strong liking for sport and can drive technological sport innovations as sport entrepreneurs, which can help increase sport related trade in Africa.
  • Women  make up a disproportionate number of informal traders in Africa. Leveraging AfCFTA in the sport industry will help facilitate increased employability of female traders of sporting goods and services. Moreover, AfCFTAs investment creation potential can also be used to target female sport entrepreneurs and help the development of female owned sport businesses.

AfCFTA and SDGs attainment through sport

AfCFTA can help ensure SDG attainment through sport along the following lines:

  • Investments creation would help sport manufacturers to producing sustainable produced sportwear, which tends to be expensive
  • Empowerment of women sport entrepreneurs would help drive towards SDG 5 on gender equality
  • Job creation, technology and innovation in the sport industry through AfCFTA would help attain SDG 9 on decent work and economic growth

Even though its interplay with the sport industry has not been expressly mentioned in the agreement, AfCFTA can play a central role in the development of sport the sport industry as well as socio-economic development through sport. It is important that its associated benefits for and through the sport industry are recognised, both by trade and sport ministries in African Union member states as well as at the intergovernmental level of the African Union, so that the sport industry can be given the weight it deserves within the AfCFTA.




Webster Chakawata is a Sport Management professional with experience in the sport for all sector, sport for development sector, sport and trade sector, EU Sport Policy and EU Sport Law areas as it relates to the organised sport movement in Europe. The author's academic research interests revolve around the sport industry in Africa, sport policy, sport diplomacy and sport and trade. They also include sport's normative contributions in areas such as peace, governance and human rights.

[1] Lipsey, R.A. (2006). The Sporting Goods Industry: History, Practice and Products. McFarland & Company, Inc Publishers, USA.

[2] European Union, Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, OJ C 326, 26 October, 2012.

[4] Zhang, J.J., Huang, H., and Nauright, J. (2018a). Sport Business in Leading Economies. Emerald Publishing Limited, UK.