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Terres en mêlées Madagascar
France is hosting the Rugby League World Cup from September 8 to October 23. It's a chance to highlight sports' role as a catalyst for social change, particularly for young people. This is why AFD Group has made rugby one of the pillars of its strategy aimed at promoting development through sport.

Originally published in July, this report was updated on 8 September, 2023

It’s time for kick-off: France is hosting the tenth edition of the Rugby World Cup. We’re talking scrums and tries but also self-confidence, ambition, solidarity, discipline and respect. This competition will not only be an opportunity to promote the impact of the sport and its contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) but also to ensure its legacy in France and beyond.

Through various calls for projects, since 2019 AFD Group has supported numerous sports initiatives as a way to propel economic and social development through sport. In total, no fewer than 14 rugby and development projects were funded for a total amount of €566,400, in 12 African countries. These initiatives use rugby as a tool to raise awareness among athletes and their entourages on major social issues such as education, health, social cohesion and the fight against inequalities.

In addition, in 2019, France 2023 created the "Rugby at heart" Endowment Fund, which already finances 80 projects responding to major issues such as education, equal opportunities, health or the inclusion of people in disability situation. 

In order to internationalize its sporting and social commitment, France 2023 has initiated a collaboration between AFD and Rugby Africa. Building on their common desire to develop rugby on the African continent, AFD and Rugby Africa signed a partnership agreement in July 2022, in order to promote the practice of rugby by girls and women, and foster the development an inclusive practice of rugby for the benefit of disadvantaged communities

Further reading: AFD & Sports: Fostering Social Cohesion and Development

Rugby, a vector of social cohesion and inclusion

The promotion of rugby and its inherent values reflects AFD Group’s commitment to work toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Led by committed civil society actors, sport and development micro-projects supported by AFD benefit local populations, and in particular African youth.

In South Africa, the School of Hard Knocks association targets young people experiencing social exclusion. In partnership with local schools, it offers them a program for learning psychosocial skills associated with the practice of rugby.

In Côte d'Ivoire, a country where chronic diseases represent 30% of premature deaths, the Medi'sept program sets up rugby tournaments during which fun and sports workshops raise awareness of sports practice and its benefits in the fight against non-communicable diseases. AFD also supports the Visions Mêlées association and its professional and sports training program focused on the literacy of young people in difficulty, through a dual course linking the practice of sport and learning a trade.

Deployed in Burkina Faso with the Rugbyna Faso project, as well as in Madagascar, Togo and Morocco with the Alafia project, the "Terre en mêlées" structure focuses on training young people through rugby as a tool for personal and social development, and education in gender equality.

See also: Soccer tackles gender inequality in West Africa through the "Champions” program

Promoting gender equality through sport

Although mainly practiced by men, rugby can be a tool for the emancipation and empowerment of young girls and women. In Cameroon, for example, the Serge Betsen Academy (SBA) promotes the inclusion of young girls in its educational and sports centers. Beyond the practice of rugby, the SBA deploys awareness-raising actions on menstrual hygiene. It has also set up training in agricultural professions for mothers to support their financial empowerment. 

Through the Program to Strengthen Sports and Inclusive Academies in Africa launched jointly by AFD and FIFA in 2022, the Serge Betsen Academy benefits from support and funding of up to €250,000 to open up new opportunities. Educational and professional opportunities for young people, particularly girls, and to further combat gender inequalities through sport.

In addition to supporting NGOs, AFD is also mobilized alongside its partners in the world of sport and development finance (FIFA, Paris 2024, CIO, NBA, GIZ) to continue to engage all international players in the rugby in favor of more social and economic development through the game of the oval ball.

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