Wednesday 08 February 2023, 23:00

Africa focused and united in Paris

  • A historic workshop in Paris brought together the heads of Africa's associations

  • The event featured two days of work on football development

  • "We've succeeded in uniting the whole of Africa in Paris to focus on one goal"

Paris played host to an unprecedented event on 7 and 8 February. For two days, representatives from every African member association gathered in the French capital for a workshop on football development, which has been bolstered this year by the launch of FIFA Forward 3.0. The FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, set the tone in his opening speech on Tuesday by announcing "a new era for African football", thanks in large part to a significant increase in funding for member associations. Indeed, the third cycle of the FIFA Forward programme, which runs until 2026, will bring about a rise of close to 30 per cent in funds to be invested in football development.

Beyond the importance of financial concerns, it was human resources that enjoyed pride of place during the two days of discussions and collaboration. "I think today we can be proud because we've succeeded in uniting the whole of Africa in Paris to focus on one goal: building the future of football across the continent together and uniting around a strategy," said FIFA's Chief Member Associations Officer, Kenny Jean-Marie. "It was two days of intensive work," added Gelson Fernandes, FIFA's Director Member Associations Africa. "It's difficult to assimilate all the information, but I have to say that the delegates, the presidents, the secretary generals, the financial officers and the Forward officials all did a fantastic job."

After a first day mostly dedicated to best practices in governance, the second day was focused on strategic planning and a presentation on what FIFA Forward 3.0 entails. To supervise the work of the participants, the workshop was also attended by representatives from FIFA's regional offices in Africa, which help the associations with their various development projects all year round.

"The regional offices were set up to facilitate the launch of the FIFA Forward programme," explained David Rani, who is based at the Johannesburg office. "They play a very important advisory role to the member associations and help them create projects as part of FIFA Forward."

"We're there to remind them all of the importance of strategic planning," said El Hadji Wack Diop, who works at the Dakar office. "We have to all agree on a common definition and also on a common strategy."

"After planning comes the oversight," added Davis Ndayisenga, part of the regional office team in Kigali. "You have to select the best projects, which are those that meet the needs of the member associations of each federation, and that requires a thorough analysis of every document sent by each federation."

"Not a coincidence"

To round off the two days of work in style, the African delegations received a visit from Fatma Samoura, who greeted them all warmly and thanked them for their presence at this historic event. The FIFA Secretary General used the example of Morocco and their recent exploits to show the way forward in terms of development. "They became the first African nation to reach a World Cup semi-final," she said. "That performance was not down to luck but the result of long-term efforts driven by a president whose heart is set on the development of football, his country and his continent."

The Senegalese official underlined her point by citing women's football, which "only existed at school level in Morocco, where there was no professional league. Now, Morocco is set to participate in the Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand after reaching the final of the Women's Africa Cup of Nations. Getting there required consolidated governance and planning for the future, not a willingness to settle for the rewards of one or two years of investment."

She next offered as an example the success of her own nation, "which like many others was affected by several years of uncertain governance. But with good will, a love of football and, above all, good planning – which has been the focus of these two days of meetings – you can reach the summit of the continental game and why not one day lift a trophy as coveted as the World Cup?" All the participants then joined the Secretary General on stage for a group photo that was filled with faces expressing pride and satisfaction after the work accomplished during this first ever workshop of its kind, which will surely lead to many more in the future.