Ready to host the AFCON in January next year, Côte d’Ivoire has concurrently launched a comprehensive public policy for youth and sports. Abidjan is thus developing an extensive nationwide program called “Project Agora.” It envisions the construction of approximately 90 sports facilities scattered throughout the country, where young people can come together to learn about sharing and discipline through sports. An ambitious project, its initial impacts are already visible in the country.

“A place where through sports, citizenship is built.”

As part of the implementation of the national sports policy 2016-2023, the Ivorian government is committed to promoting sports for all across the country to contribute to the well-being and health of the population. “Solidarity Côte d’Ivoire offers reasons to believe in the future, to dream big,” stated Alassane Ouattara, the President of the Republic, at the beginning of the year, designating 2023 as the year of youth. Spearheading this policy is the Agora project, officially in the active phase since the inauguration of the Koumassi Agora, the project’s pilot site, on December 21, 2019.

“This site has allowed us to launch an extensive Agora project to ensure that, in every neighborhood, young people have a place to meet, to prepare for their future, to live in a different atmosphere. Ultimately, we should have 90 agoras in this country (and about ten should be operational by the end of 2023),” explained the Ivorian Minister of Sports and Leisure, Paulin Claude Danho, during a site visit.

And these agoras, far from just a name, align with the tradition of Greek agoras. “We wanted to start from this concept because the agora in ancient Greece was the place where people gathered to debate, to develop citizenship. Today, it is a place where through sports, citizenship is built. Through sports, we reintegrate young people into society and create perspectives for the youth,” the minister also emphasized.

Massifying Mass Sports

Côte d’Ivoire’s goal is to popularize sports, whose current participation rate is still too low, thanks in part to the construction of appropriate sports infrastructure. “The first major pillar in our infrastructure strategy is the AFCON infrastructure. We also have agoras and infrastructure against drownings, which we have observed for the youth. Côte d’Ivoire is a country where we see over 200 young people killed in rivers, seas, even private pools every year. We had to eradicate this pandemic, and for that, we developed a nautical comfort project, which will lead us to build 4 new pools,” said Paulin Claude Danho. The nautical comfort project, focusing on swimming, will complement the Agora project, centered on eight major sports: football, athletics, basketball, taekwondo, judo, handball, boxing, and rugby. Ultimately, the agoras will host sites for combat sports, 50 fitness rooms, 200 multifunctional covered sports fields, 30 football fields, 15 health trails, and 10 boxing rings.

More broadly, this project fits into the long term and also aims to address the traditional underfunding of African countries in dedicated sports infrastructure. In fact, sports represents only 0.5% of Africa’s GDP, where it averages 2% internationally.

Revitalizing the Local Economy

Beyond sports, the Agora aims to facilitate education, health, and develop youth entrepreneurship and integration, but it will also have repercussions on the Ivorian economy and society in general. As Ismaila Siribe, CEO of Ivoire Agora, emphasizes, “these infrastructures also impact households around them because they indirectly provide employment. It affects more than a hundred households thanks to the Agora project. Every time there is a sports and cultural event, economic operators (grocery stores, shops, etc.) benefit indirectly.”

It is also essential to note that these sports complexes are composed of energy-autonomous buildings, with a solar power plant on their roofs. Cutting-edge technology equipment, their maintenance will require the involvement of local technicians. And to top it off, these complexes are expected to be financially autonomous, thanks to a well-thought-out business plan. Thus, 25% of the time and space of the agoras will be allocated to commercial activities to fund their operation, and the stands will sometimes be transformed into a music stage or a performance hall. Major brands will also be associated with the project through sponsorship and advertising.

With these agoras, Côte d’Ivoire is betting on the future, through its youth and more. Like the Greek agoras, these sports complexes aim to become places for multigenerational meetings, where consultations will take place, and decisions will be made. But above all, all these gatherings, whether sports or otherwise, will have a direct impact on the local economy.

From :