Tuesday 07 November 2023, 16:30

FIFA Forward creating new opportunities in Africa, Fatma Samoura tells Sport Impact Summit

  • FIFA Secretary General highlights USD 1.25 billion investment in Africa

  • 50 new competitions launched with over 25% of players girls and women

  • FIFA collaboration with French Development Agency (AFD), United Nations (UN) and others bearing fruit

Fatma Samoura has hailed the positive impact of the FIFA Forward initiative on football in Africa with the Secretary General telling the Sport Impact Summit the USD 1.25 billion investment in the game on the continent is developing the sport and society.

Established in 2016 when Ms Samoura joined President Gianni Infantino at FIFA, the Forward programme has since provided FIFA’s 211 Member Associations (MA) with funds to develop football-related projects in their country.

Funding has increased seven-fold in the last seven years, and FIFA Forward 3.0 is expected to provide each MA with up to USD eight million over the coming four-year cycle.

Speaking at the opening of the Sport Impact Summit in Dakar, Senegal, Ms Samoura said the programme’s positive impact is being felt.

“Since the inception of the Forward Programme in 2016, our financial support to the beneficiaries of the African continent is USD 1.25 billion, of which about USD 120 million has been invested in football infrastructure across 48 countries and including 169 new football pitches,” said Ms Samoura, who will step down from her FIFA role at the end of December.

“After laying the foundations through infrastructure, Forward funds have been used to organise the game: 50 new competitions have been launched, with girls and women representing more than 25% of the total number of players.”

“The aim of the Forward programme is more investment in football and more impact,” said Kenny Jean-Marie, FIFA’s FIFA Chief Member Associations Officer during a panel discussion at the Summit on the theme ‘Finance and investment models in African sport’. “This potential must be realised not tomorrow nor the day after tomorrow, but today.”

The growth of women’s football around the globe and in Africa in particular has been a cause close to the heart of Ms Samoura, who was born in Senegal and is FIFA’s first female Secretary General in the organisation’s 119-year history.

Along with President Infantino, she helped engineer the expansion of the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ to 32 teams for this year’s tournament in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand, a move which – having initially been criticised – proved justified.

Nearly two million fans attended matches as the tournament broke even financially, and on the pitch a team from each of FIFA’s six confederations won a game for the very first time. Three of Africa’s four participants reached the knockout rounds, while women and girls around the world saw role models competing on the global stage.

“Football is also a way to really fight gender bias and promote female empowerment – especially in countries which are very male-dominated. That is why, at FIFA, we have made the growth of women’s football an absolute priority – and I believe we are now succeeding. This FIFA Women's World Cup is showing that the standards of women's football are improving around the world,” said Ms Samoura, noting how increased exposure to top-level competition had improved standards across the men’s game.

“There is no reason why women’s football around the world should not follow the same trend.”

To reinforce the foundations already established and build on the success of the FIFA Women’s World Cup™, FIFA has been working closely with a number of stakeholders, notably various United Nations agencies, the World Trade Organization, and the French Development Agency (AFD).

Following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with AFD in 2019, FIFA has helped implement a number of projects in French-speaking sub-Saharan Africa aimed at empowering women through football and promoting sport in school.

“FIFA is establishing a strong network by facilitating and encouraging discussion and collaboration with policy-makers, governments, UN agencies, intergovernmental organisations, and private sector companies worldwide to enhance positive social-economic change and foster a political environment favourable to the development of football everywhere,” said Ms Samoura.

The FIFA Football for Schools programme also ties in with collaborations with other stakeholders, and forms the basis for the co-financed FIFA/AFD inclusive football academy programme recently launched in Djibouti, Malawi and Mauritania.

“Knowing that less than 0.01% of players become professionals, the programme looks to support development of academies in member associations that not only train future talents but also prepare them to be future citizens,” said Ms. Samoura of the project, which uses the NGO PLAY International and the Senegal-based Diambars academy as implementation agencies.

“We are very excited to continue making a positive difference to the young people and communities in Africa.”