— Published 30 March 2022

Sport in Africa is getting bigger

The Rencontres internationales des grands événements sportifs (RIGES) are being exported. Not surprisingly, they are doing so in Africa. After eight editions in France, the event organised by Business France will be held on 17 and 18 May 2022 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. Arnaud Pellichero, sports consultant at Business France, explained to FrancsJeux the stakes, the highlights and the prospects.

FrancsJeux: After eight editions in France, why are you organising the first RIGES in Africa this year?

Arnaud Pellichero: The starting point of the RIGES Africa was a meeting with the Minister of Sports of Ivory Coast, Claude Paulin Danho. A great regular of our event, he visited us at Business France at the end of 2021. He expressed his desire and that of the Prime Minister to organise a future edition in Abidjan, with 10 African countries invited (Algeria, Benin, Cameroon, Congo Brazzaville, Gabon, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, Togo and Tunisia). This desire on the part of the Ivorian Minister of Sports came at the right time, as we have organised several collective missions to Africa, the latest of which, in September 2021 in Senegal, brought together some twenty French companies in the sports sector. So the collaborations already existed. We also carry out a sports watch on sub-Saharan Africa for the Ministry of Sports and the Sports Sector.

What will be the highlights of this edition in Côte d’Ivoire?

The RIGES Africa will take place over two days, on 17 and 18 May 2022. Two days of exchanges, meetings, round tables… We are expecting 300 to 400 participants, representatives of institutions, sports federations, professional leagues, organising committees, etc. French companies will have the opportunity to present themselves through pitches and targeted meetings. The RIGES Africa will also be marked by discussions on the legacy of major sporting events, on the 2026 Youth Games in Dakar, but also on the crucial issue of financing. Individual meetings are also planned for the French companies in the delegation. Finally, the sessions will end with a visit to sports venues in Abidjan.

Africa has been awarded the organisation of major upcoming events, including the 2026 YOG in Dakar and the 2025 World Road Cycling Championships in Rwanda. It is also a candidate, along with Kenya, for the 2025 World Athletics Championships. Is this a sign of the continent’s new determination to play a major role in the international sports movement?

There is indeed a strong dynamic in a growing number of African countries. Sport is rooted in culture, but today it has also become a development tool. In Senegal, for example, the government has continued to increase the sports budget despite the health crisis. An ambitious policy of renovating or building sports facilities has been put in place. One hundred million euros of investments have already been allocated. A 50,000-seat stadium was recently inaugurated in the suburbs of Dakar. The phenomenon is measured on the scale of the continent, with a desire to host not just African events, but global ones. South Africa will host the World Table Tennis Championships in 2023, and will then join Namibia and Zimbabwe in co-hosting the Cricket World Cup in 2027. Egypt has expressed its willingness to bid for the Olympic Games in 2036.

Is the development of sports practice part of the same dynamic?

Yes. Africans have always followed major sporting events. Today, this passion of the population for sport and its champions is accompanied by a very marked development in the practice of sport, particularly among young people. They are increasingly looking to the top level. In Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire, in particular, more and more open-air facilities are becoming available to the public.

What does Africa represent today for French companies in the sports sector?

A target market with very significant potential. But the phenomenon is not new. It has existed for several years. Africa has always been a geographical area that has been very present at the RIGES. With the 2022 edition in Abidjan, French companies in the sports sector will have the opportunity to position themselves on future markets, notably the African Cup of Nations in Côte d’Ivoire in 2023, the Islamic Solidarity Games in Cameroon in 2025, and of course the Youth Games in 2026 in Dakar. They will be able to meet decision-makers and present their know-how.

Will this first edition of the RIGES outside France be followed by others?

Yes. After eight editions in France, the RIGES are now known abroad. Their format can be duplicated elsewhere in the world. North America is a geographical area with great potential in view of the 2026 World Cup and the Los Angeles Games in 2028. Australia, too, with the Brisbane Games in 2032. One of its states, New South Wales, has expressed its ambition to host ten World Championships or World Cups over the next ten years. We have also planned a mission to Australia in September 2022 to position French companies.