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Back to the future for All Africa Games

By Vision Reporter

Added 21st September 2015 06:12 PM

As the 50th anniversary All Africa Games came to a conclusion Saturday in Brazzaville, it was hard to predict what the future holds for the quadrennial showpiece.

Back to the future for All Africa Games

As the 50th anniversary All Africa Games came to a conclusion Saturday in Brazzaville, it was hard to predict what the future holds for the quadrennial showpiece.

By Charles Mutebi

As the 50th anniversary All Africa Games came to a conclusion Saturday in Brazzaville, it was hard to predict what the future holds for the quadrennial showpiece.


While thousands of athletes from all over the continent participated in the 15-day event, many of Africa's biggest stars were once again conspicuous by their absence. The most obvious example is that of Kenya's top athletes. They finished atop the medal standings of the World Athletics Championships in Beijing that ended just days to the opening ceremony of the All Africa Games but played no part in the Brazzaville Games.

Instead, Athletics Kenya sent the up-and-comers, supposedly to groom them for future World Championships. Kenya were not alone, of course. Stars from Ethiopia, Nigeria, Uganda and many other countries all chose to skip the event as long as it was convenient to do so.

Of course, in so doing, these athletes continued to dilute the profile of the Games, which in the first place is the reason they ignore them. For these professionals, it doesn't make professional sense to participate in an event that doesn't pay, either financially or in terms of prestige.

The World Athletics Championships, Diamond Leagues, world city marathons, to name but a few, pay handsomely and have no trouble attracting Africa's top athletes. The Olympics don't pay but then they are the Olympics. Right?

The All Africa Games have no prize money and, as many things African, little prestige.

It's curious how the reasons that gave rise to the All Africa Games 50 years ago remain today. The search for an African identity, a Pan Africanism has not achieved as much success as it was hoped at the time when Brazzaville held the inaugural African Games.

The direct powers of colonization were being peeled back from a continent but the African dream, which independence promised, was perhaps always a pipe dream. Perhaps Africa will never rid herself of the damage of imperialism that was, in essence, predicated on eroding the very sanctity of Africanism.

So when Africa's finest sportsmen don't see the prestige of winning an All African medal, it's merely a reflection of the colonial legacy of Africa's destruction. When African governments don't see the pride that would come from elevating the profile of the African Games, it only proves who's still in charge.

Congo Brazzaville hosted the 2015 edition with no small help from the Chinese, who were in charge of constructing the world-class facilities that left athletes in awe. It was, however, curious to see aspects of Chinese culture given centre-stage at the opening ceremony, no doubt under the instructions of Congolese president Dennis Sassou Nguesso.

China is of course the latest superpower to pick interest in Africa and their promise of collaboration rather than colonization has attracted several African heads like Nguesso, who are tired of the interference of former colonial masters.

But as the 2015 African Games showed, the Chinese don't mind a slice of sacred African territory as well. It's a new player but the same old game. Put differently, 50 years from now, Africa and the African Games may still be fighting for their soul. ​

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