By Herbert Mensah, President of Rugby Africa (www.RugbyAfrique.com)
Saturday August 12 marks International Youth Day. As the newly elected President of Rugby Africa, the governing body of Rugby in Africa, I believe the vibrant youth of Africa holds within them the seeds of continental transformation. According to a recent publication by the United Nations, Africa has the youngest population in the world, with 70% of Sub-Saharan Africa under the age of 30. This demographic isn’t just a statistic; it is a resource of unmeasurable potential that calls upon us to commit to fostering the empowerment for our youth for a brighter future. Today, as we celebrate the vigor and promise of our young people, it is crucial to recognize the pivotal role that rugby will continue to play in the next decade in empowering youth, fostering unity, and igniting them to their fullest potential.
Rugby: Building Characters
Rugby, with its core values of integrity, respect, solidarity, passion and discipline stands as a powerful vehicle for building characters. Beyond the physicality of the sport, rugby instills life skills that extend far beyond the playing field. Consider a young player learning integrity on the pitch translates to honesty in life’s challenges. Respect in victory and defeat fosters empathy in relationships. Solidarity in teamwork becomes community service, fostering a spirit for a common good. Passion for improvement becomes a driving force in all pursuits. Discipline on the field cultivates focus and commitment to education and careers. These values are the pillars upon which we build not just skilled rugby players, but also responsible citizens and future leaders who are equipped to navigate life’s challenges with resilience and determination.
Unity in Diversity: Rugby’s Inclusivity
In a world where divisions dominate the discourse, rugby shines as a beacon of inclusivity and unity. Regardless of one’s background, shape or size, rugby opens its arms to all.
For instance, in the South African women’s national rugby team, a staggering 33 cm height differential spans from the shortest to the tallest player. Additionally, a notable weight gap of 61 kg separates the lighter and heaviest members of the team. This stark contrast comes into focus when compared to the realm of football, where the South African women’s national football team boasts a considerably more consistent size and shape among its players. Notably, the height range within the football team is a mere 12 cm, while the weight variance is a modest 27 kg. Remarkably, this serves as a clear demonstration of the greater inclusivity within rugby in comparison to football, as evidenced by the pronounced differences in physical attributes among the athletes. Our sport breaks down societal barriers, fostering an environment where women take their place alongside men, and where players of all shapes and sizes contribute their unique strengths to a collective effort. In a society that has often been unkind to women for not fitting into their unrealistic expectations, rugby defies these standards, welcoming and empowering women of every kind. This inclusivity cultivates a sense of unity that transcends borders and celebrates the diversity of humans, while creating lifelong friendships.
A Call to Partnerships
As we stand at the threshold of another year, governments and stakeholders are presented with an opportunity to invest in the youth through rugby. However, this task cannot be shouldered by one entity alone. It requires new and transformative partnerships between governments, organizations, and communities. As the recently elected President of Rugby Africa, I am very aware of the issues we face through insufficient funding, limited playing time, and lack of nutrition. Insufficient funding limits training and travel. Restricted playing time deprives our youth of skill development. Lack of proper nutrition compromises the very well-being of the young individuals we seek to impower. These issues need to be addressed collectively, ensuring that our young players have the resources they need to flourish.
Equipping Africa’s Youth for Success
Empowering African youth through rugby is not just about playing a fun sport; it is about providing them with the tools they need to establish continental growth and reach their fullest potential. We must recognize that every young rugby player has the potential to be a future leader, an agent of positive change and an ambassador for unity. By nurturing their talents, and investing in their development, we set in motion a journey that will contribute not only to the advancement of rugby across Africa, but to the progress of our societies at large.
As the newly elected President of Rugby Africa, I stand committed to collaborating with all stakeholders. Our aim is to utilize rugby as a sports development tool across Africa, aligned with the pursuit of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. I am driven by the belief that the empowerment of our youth is not only a moral imperative but also an investment to an economically sustainable future across Africa. Through partnerships, dedication, and a shared vision, we will harness the power of rugby to uplift our young people, uniting them in their diversity and guiding them towards excellence.
In celebrating International Youth Day, let us remember that the potential of Africa’s youth is boundless. By empowering them through rugby, we unlock a force that will shape our continent’s destiny, driving progress, unity and prosperity for generations to come.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Rugby Africa.
Communications Advisor to the President of Rugby Africa
About Rugby Africa:
Rugby Africa (www.RugbyAfrique.com) is the governing body of rugby in Africa and one of the regional associations under World Rugby. It unites all African countries that play rugby union, rugby sevens, and women’s rugby. Rugby Africa organizes various competitions, including the qualifying tournaments for the Rugby World Cup and the Africa Sevens, a qualifying competition for the Olympic Games. With 39 member unions, Rugby Africa is dedicated to promoting and developing rugby across the continent.