November 26, 20210

Francis Mutuku, NOC-K Ag. Secretary-General has called on National Olympic Committees of Africa to adopt an A Game 28 – African Game Plan for Los Angeles 2028. Mutuku was speaking while evaluating Africa’s performance at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics during the 38th Seminar for Secretaries General of African NOCs that started today in Niamey, Niger.

Mr. Mutuku, who is also the Secretary-General of the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa, (ANOCA Zone V), mentioned that the A Game 28 are strategic objectives that Africa should focus on to significantly increase Africa’s medal tally in LA  2028 above 50, drawing from lessons and experiences of the Tokyo 2020. Mr. Mutuku was the first speaker in the seminar that includes all 54 NOCs in Africa, focusing on their NOCs strategic plans, on planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

Some of the objectives he mentioned include developing the youth game, early identification, organising Zonal Youth Games, strong African Youth Games and leading to very strong Africa performance in Dakar 2026 Youth Olympics. In addition, Mutuku is calling on gradual improvement, starting by increased participation in African games 2023, competitive African participation in Paris 2024 and eventual podium finishes in LA 2028.

Mr. Mutuku presented the statistical data, lessons learnt and planning for future events, during which he painted that Africa has a great challenge to overcome to improve its standing in the Olympics in relation to the world.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games saw a total 11,417 athletes drawn from 205 Countries and, The African continent was represented by all 54 African NOCs at the Games with a total contingent of 984 athletes, representing only 8.6% of the total participation.

Competing for a chance to win the available 1,080 medals of the Tokyo Olympics, African brought home just 3.43% of the medals, a total of 37 – 11 Gold, 12 Silver and 14 Bronze Medals. Kenya and Uganda emerged as the top African countries (Kenya – 10 & Uganda – 4). Further, the two east African Nations contributed 6 out of the total 11 Gold Medals won by African Nations.

The African performance at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games was a decline in the medal tally from the best ever African performance at the Rio 2016 Olympic games. At the Rio Games, Africa gained a total of 45 medals. The next best African performance was at the Beijing 2008 where Africa won a total of 40 medals.  Kenya continues to dominate the medal standings in Africa having won 10 medals at both Tokyo and Beijing games and 13 medals at the Rio 2016 games.

Mr. Mutuku mentioned that some of the lessons learnt is that Africa needs to increase its participation, to increase the chances of podium finish. 35 of the African Nations qualified for Tripartite Invitation Places. It is given to nations which had an average of no more than 8 athletes in individual sports over the previous two Games. This also means that more nations could not qualify through direct qualification and therefore depended on the tripartite places to participate in the Games, reflecting the low level of competitiveness of African nations.

Another lesson drawn was that there is an overdependence on one sport, athletics. Africa needs to invest to diversify in the Olympic Sports program. This could help increase participation and possibly medal tally. 22 of the 37 medals came from the sport of athletics. This also reflects clearly the Kenyan situation where all medals came from athletics.

Mutuku pointed that Africa is doing well in individual sports, all the medals came from individual sports of Athletics -track & triple jump, Boxing, Taekwondo, Swimming, Wrestling, Karate, Pentathlon and Surfing. Therefore, these needs to be strengthened and developed more, however, it should not be at the detriment of team sports.

This is because it was noted that Africa has lost it footing in some of the sports that they traditionally do well in; such as boxing, where out of 52 medals available in Tokyo, just one was claimed by an African – the Ghanaian featherweight Samuel Takyi. In addition to Rugby 7s – where South Africa, who top the World Rugby series failed to bring a medal that they won in Rio 2016, and football which Nigeria has medalled in three Olympics and won a bronze in Rio 2016.

Another lesson that Kenya and Ethiopia need to draw on is that the rest of the world is catching up on ‘traditional’ disciplines, including steeplechase, 5,000m & 1,500metres men which went to Europe. Africa can however console itself that some of these medals are staying within African nations. With Uganda’s great performance in women’s steeplechase, 5,000m & 10,000m as well as the men’s steeplechase title won by Moroccan Soufiane El Bakkali.

Mutuku weighed in on some of the challenges facing Africa nations, such as low GDP that reflects on the investment in sports, governments cutting funding of sports, the Covid-19 pandemic that affected preparations, underdeveloped infrastructure and lacking in technical skills. There is a dearth of world class technical skills amongst African NOC’s. This is evidence by the decline in medal tallies for sporting disciplines such as boxing as a result of review of the technical criteria and rules of the sport & taekwondo with new scoring systems.

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