2024, Africa's Year of Sporting Excellence


2023 was a thrilling year for African sportswomen and men. Some of the continent's finest athletes whether in individual or collective sports hit the firmament of their art with electrifying displays worthy of their standings as greats.
From rugby to athletics and football, martial arts as well as other disciplines, the continent's sports actors endeared themselves in the hearts of fans with spectacular performances across the globe.

South Africa's men's rugby team christened the "Springboks" had already established for itself an enviable status as a juggernaut in the sport having won three Rugby World Cups and the 2023 World Cup established the premises for them to become the greatest rugby team of all times. At the global rugby jamboree, the "Springboks" sprang to greatness by clinching the tournament's silverware, becoming the only team in the history of the event to lift the Webb Ellis Cup a record four times. This victory was greeted across the continent with the Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat commending them for making Africans proud.

African teams at the 2023 Women's Handball World Cup moved closer to the collective quest of a podium finish. For the first time in the competition's history, three African teams - Angola, Cameroon, and Senegal - sailed past the group stages into the main round of the event. It is believed the experience
gleaned in playing in the main round will be key in future competitions. The 2023 Women's World Cup in New Zealand and Australia crystallized the attention of football fans.

South Africa, Nigeria, and Morocco all made it to the round of 16 but their aspirations for quarterfinal spots weren't to come to fruition this time around. There's a firm belief that with significant investments and the right ecosystem around them, Africa's representatives at the 2027 Women’s World Cup will shatter the ceilings and perhaps worm their way to the semis of the competition.
In 2023 African athletes stormed track and field events to extend their success stories on the sport. Gold medals were won, podiums clinched, and new records established amongst them a new world record in men's marathon by Kelvin Kiptum with a 2 hours 35 seconds finish at the Chicago Marathon while Tigist Assefa completed the Berlin marathon in 2:11:53 in October 2023. The sudden and tragic death of Kelvin Kiptum is deeply lamented, his passing, a significant loss. The AUSC’s thoughts are with his friends and family during this difficult time.

It is not easy to look ahead. Carrying the competitive spirit of Kelvin Kiptum into the sporting year 2024, several major sporting events are coming up. The 2024 Africa Cup of Nations has been an incredible curtain raiser to the year with stunning results, major upsets, and an electrifying spectacle. That the nations hitherto considered continental giants either exited the competition in the first hurdle or the round of 16 further highlighted how competitive the sport has become, annihilating the notion that there are giants and minnows in African football.

A few weeks after the Africa Cup of Nations, the continent’s most prestigious multi-sports competition, the African Games, will get into action in Accra, Ghana. Over 4000 athletes are expected to compete in 23 sports codes in the tournament that will run from the 8th -24th March. The African Games will serve as a qualifying avenue in badminton, cycling, table tennis, tennis, triathlon, and wrestling for the 2024 Paris Olympics. The African Games have been a breeding ground for thriving champions in providing young athletes with a foretaste of what global competitions may look like.

South African swimmer Chad Le Clos was 19 years old when he competed at the 2011 African Games in Maputo, Mozambique, picking up five gold medals in the event. The year after, he secured a gold medal in the 200-meter butterfly at the 2012 London Olympics. The South African went on to have an illustrious career picking up 16 gold medals in the World Championships, seven gold at the Commonwealth Games and silverware in other tournaments. Cameroonian track and field star Françoise Mbango Etone won her first-ever gold medal at the 1999 African Games in Johannesburg, South Africa. She’ll go on to be crowned African champions four times, winning two Olympic gold medals, and establishing an Olympic record in triple jump. Like Mbango and Le Clos, many African athletes have sprung to greatness after garnering skills and experience at the African Games, and there’s no doubt many will want to walk down that path.

Africa’s sporting excellence will shine bright in Paris at the 2024 Olympics from July 26 – August 11 and the 2024 Paralympics from August 28 – September 8. A common sight in recent Olympics and Paralympics has been African flags flying high and anthems of African nations chanted with great renditions following the triumph of African athletes. Africa’s flagbearers will thus make it a duty to replicate previous performances and perhaps set the standards further higher.
Lovers of handball will see the continents best compete for continental crown at the 2024 African Men’s Handball Championship while African weightlifters will be out for remarkable performances at the World Championships later in December in Bahrain.
African athletes through their sporting prowess as well as through the power of sport have brought people, communities, and nations together and there’s no doubt that with Africa’s pinnacle multi-sport tournament, the African Games, getting into action in some weeks as well other tournaments slated, the African athletes will once more be ambassadors of the continent, pursuing in their constant exhibition of African excellence.