Interview: Football can help boost African economy

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With the FIFA World Cup due to take place in South Africa in 2010, Europe can use sport as a tool for development and to foster economic activity, argues Jean-Claude Mbvoumin, the President of Culture Foot Solidaire, a French NGO active in the fight against the trafficking of young African football talents.

With issues such as doping, human trafficking and violence more prominent than ever, the sports world is in dire need of regulation, argues Mbvoumin. 

“Today, major sports such as football have a specific nature and total autonomy of action. However, this is not realistic if you look at the issues they face – money-laundering through sport, human trafficking, exploitation of under-aged players, violence and racism,” said Mbvoumin. 

“Today, a sport alone does not have the means nor does it always have the legitimacy to tackle the issues,” he argues.

Asked whether the FIFA World Cup 2010 – which will take place in South Africa – can have a positive role in promoting sport as a tool for development, Mbvoumin said “it will depend on those responsible for sport and in particular on FIFA.” He recommended that FIFA sets itself clear targets for 2010 with regard to education, health and the protection of children.

But he also warns that sport alone cannot become a driving force for development and that the involvement of African states as well as grass-roots organisations such as Culture Foot Solidaire is also necessary. 

Asked to explain in detail how exactly sport could be turned into a tool for development, Mbvoumin underlined the importance of developing an economic structure for sport. “Sport is an economic activity. It generates a lot of income and money transfers. This can be interesting for the developing countries and can contribute to development policies.” 

“Currently no formal, organised or structured economic activity around sport exists in Africa and no policies have been put in place for that,” Mbvoumin explained, adding that the continent lacks know-how and clear policies on the issue and that Europe’s support could be valuable here.

Mbvoumin also hopes to get political and financial support from Europe for a conference that Culture Foot Solidaire is preparing on the issue of trafficking and exploitation of children in 2008. The aim of the association is to bring together at least 50 countries to sign a specific Charter on the protection of children and young players. The association would also like to see Europe help establish programmes for preventative actions in Africa in this regard.

To read the full interview, please click here.

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