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Sport et santé au Burundi
The countdown is on to 26 July, 2024. With just months to go before next year's Olympic Games begin in Paris, it’s time to take stock of AFD’s initiatives involving sports and development, particularly in Africa.

In 2024, Paris will host the Olympic Games for the first time in a century. In the run-up to the event, AFD Group and Paris 2024 established an unprecedented partnership three years ago to ensure that the legacy of this event goes beyond French borders. “The formidable potential of this cooperation was clear right from the start: an alliance between a unique ambition for sport and development and the largest sporting event in the world ”, said Sophie Lorant, Director of International Relations on the Organizing Committee for the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Christophe Dias, AFD Mission and Development Officer said “AFD Group and Paris 2024 are convinced that sport can be a driver of solidarity-based sustainable investments and are working to harness the energy of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and place it at the service of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with a special focus on young people. 

For the past three years, the two partners have been supporting numerous initiatives in the fields of education, gender equality, health and well-being. 

An incubator for change-driving athletes

More than just sports men and women, athletes are often role models for young people and society as a whole. This is why since 2020, with the  impact 2024 incubator, AFD and Paris 2024 have sought to give sports men and women the tools they need to have a positive social impact and build a sustainable professional future. 

Over eight months, they have been able to give shape to their projects through bootcamps, group workshops, mentoring sessions and meetings with inspiring personalities. Two groups of 26 African and French athletes have already benefited from such sports “incubators” to launch their entrepreneurial project, and a third is just getting started. “I was supported by a mentor based in Mali who helped me adapt my basketball camp project for teenage girls in Bamako to the specificities of that country. The incubator has been a real accelerator,” says former Malian basketball player Diana Gandega, who was in the incubator’s second group.

See also: Impact 2024 International: 10 new projects selected in seven African countries

Impact 2024 International: More than 77,000 beneficiaries 

As proof that sport can have an impact beyond the stadia, Pierre Gony says rugby saved his life. “Thanks to the outstretched hand of a coach” he said, “the teenage delinquent that I was became a semi-professional rugby player. Since then, I have always wanted to help young people through sport.” Today, he’s the president of the Terres en Mélées association, which aims to develop education through sport in the most disadvantaged regions of Madagascar or Burkina Faso. 

This NGO was one of the first winners of impact 2024 International. Launched in 2021, this initiative finances projects putting sport at the service of sustainable development in Africa and organizes rugby tournaments and other educational events to contribute to the emancipation of Malagasy youths, in a country where the rate of early marriage is 42.3%.

Thanks to this program, the association Pour le Sourire d’un Enfant, which uses the sport of fencing to rehabilitate minors in trouble with the law in Senegal, has been able to expand its field of action to help teenage victims of sexual violence. In all, the four Impact 2024 International calls for projects are now supporting 45 projects in 19 African countries, with financial support amounting to 1.4 million euros. 

Further reading: Rugby, a Key Role to Play in the Sustainable Development Goals

Young diplomats to promote sports for peace

To promote the Olympics' values of peace among young people, pupils from 30 classes in the Seine-Saint-Denis and Paris Academies received the support of the Paris 2024 and AFD partnership to help them organize an Olympic truce simulation. This simulation aims to replicate the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of a resolution on the Olympic Truce, calling on UN Member States to cease hostilities for a period ranging from seven days before the start of the Olympic Games to seven days after the end of the Paralympic Games. 

In this initiative, also supported by the Rectorats of the Paris and Créteil Academies, the department of Seine-Saint-Denis and the City of Paris, 30 classes of eight grade pupils worked for several months on proposals to strengthen the pacifying role of sport in the world. Compiled in a draft resolution, these proposals will be presented to the United Nations General Assembly in New York by a delegation of 16 students in the fall of 2023. "We salute the work done by all these schoolchildren in favor of a more just and united world,” says AFD CEO Rémy Rioux. “Education in citizenship and international solidarity is an essential prerequisite for preserving the world we have in common.” 

See also: Sports as a Driver of Development and Peace

Hand in hand for the Youth Olympic Games in Dakar

In a sense, the 2024 Olympics pave the way to another milestone: the first ever Games in Africa. 
“We have one year left to continue to build on common actions linking sport and development, and to imprint a common international legacy post-2024,” said Sophie Lorant. We are already looking to the Dakar 2026 Youth Olympic Games (YOG), and to boost the success of this first ever Olympic event on African soil, Paris 2024 and AFD are partnering with several players within the Dioko Alliance. 

In order to reduce inequalities in access to sports facilities in Dakar and increase the number of people practicing sports, AFD has granted a loan of €60 million to the Senegalese government to rehabilitate the IBA Mar Diop stadium and the Olympic swimming pool. Other local sports facilities, such as basketball and beach volleyball courts and football grounds, will also be built or renovated in the disadvantaged neighborhoods of Dakar to facilitate access to sport for all, and ensure these Games leave a lasting legacy for the youth. 

See also: Sport and development: AFD's actions explained in one infographic

Since AFD Group adopted a Sport and Development strategy in 2019, more than 160 development projects have been supported by AFD and its partners. The legacy of this partnership with Paris 2024 will be extended through collaborations being developed with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to make sport a lever for development in the long term.