The partnership between the French Development Agency and Paris 2024 announced in 2020 has been finalized with the launch of an incubator dedicated to “athlete-entrepreneurs”, particularly in Africa.
By Jacques Leroueil
Unveiled during the Global Sports Week 2021 in February, the first group, mostly African athletes, 16 of the 26 selected being from the continent, will receive support through the incubator. In fact, this commitment is in line with the speech made at the University of Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) in 2017, when President Emmanuel Macron called for “the recognition of sport as a powerful vector for development and growth of African economies.” The presidential rhetoric has since been translated into action, through commitments made by the French Development Agency (AFD) in particular: in addition to one-off national support on sport-related issues, such as technical support to the Senegalese sports federation in preparation for the 2022 Youth Olympic Games in Dakar or a recent €1.5 million grant provided to the policy of sports excellence in Rwanda, the main instrument of French economic diplomacy provided assistance for the creation of the Basketball Africa League (BAL) in February 2019. It is now the turn of « athlete-entrepreneurs » to benefit from the generosity of AFD and its partner, Paris 2024.
«Bespoke support focused on building a financial model and a marketing plan »
Over eight months, from February to October 2021, the selected athletes will enjoy bespoke support, […] focused on building a financial model and a marketing plan”, AFD and Paris 2024 indicate in their joint press release. This support will include “bootcamps, group ideation workshops, mentoring sessions and meetings with inspirational figures.” These should ultimately “provide [the group members] with a method and tools to build their project from start to finish,” say the initiators of the program, who also listed the selected projects, particularly in Africa: Togo’s first swimming pool, organizing basketball camps in Senegal, neighborhood sports infrastructure in the DRC, the development of eco-tourism through sport in Morocco…
Athletes, social entrepreneurs of tomorrow
It is no surprise under these conditions that the athletes in the incubator want more. « In this group, I can see all the ingredients that helped me succeed in sport – collective competitive spirit, guidance, training and the will to achieve a goal,” Sarah Hanffou, an athlete taking part in the program says enthusiastically. Tony Estanguet, President of Paris 2024, agrees wholeheartedly, noting that «throughout their careers, athletes develop a number of qualities that can be used to great effect in business, such as endurance, determination and a drive to improve.” Indeed, the President of Paris 2024, himself three-time Olympic champion in canoeing, strongly believes these athletes are all “the social entrepreneurs of tomorrow.”