Held on 26 and 27 March in the city of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia was the site of the FASU General Assembly and 3rd FISU-FASU-NUSF Strategic Dialogue. This year’s theme for the event was titled “university sports in a changing world,” with speakers from FISU, FASU, National University Sports Federations (NUSF) and students also presented in a new hybrid format (online and in-person).
Presentations kicked off with FASU 1st Vice President and Chairperson of the Committee for Education and Development of University Sports (CEDUS), Dr. Daouda Sidibe, welcoming all to the important two-day event.
“FASU as a major continental entity is now wondering what is in the future for sport after 2019,” said Dr. Sidibe. “It is in this global situation that we were still able to organise the Strategic Dialogue and I would like to salute the Deputy Mayor, her excellency, and would also like to express our gratitude to the Acting President of FISU, President of Kenyatta University and other high level entities who grace us with their presence and can help us reach our goals.”
Also welcoming all to the session was FISU Acting President, Leonz Eder, who expressed his gratitude to FASU for being a driver for university sport.
“Let me first say that FASU is a role model for the entire University Sport Movement, as they have hosted so many university events in early times and has the first females sitting as President and Secretary General for the federation,” said Eder. “I would like to thank NUSFs for their contributions, who shape activities of FISU. I sincerely hope that with joining our efforts and energy, we will be able to overcome this global situation and do even more.”
FISU Continental Association Delegate and FASU President, Nomsa Mahlangu, then took the stage addressing members of the audience.
“As human beings living in this time, we need to be agile, adaptable and fluid. In 2019, none of us thought that we would be having a meeting where there would be something called social distancing,” said Mahlangu. “An important conversation for us in the coming days is how do we as university sport adapt in this changing world, without losing our identity of university sport.”
Session: ‘What’s Up FISU?’
Morning sessions kicked off with an informational presentation about FISU’s current educational activities made by Lilia Barieva—FISU Director of Education and Development.
“Last year, as you know, we had to stop all of our sports events and had to manage our FISU World University Championships with one in-person and one online event. We were also able to continue with educational activities as you all know, where we had a successful FISU World Forum and FVLA,” said Barieva. “Regarding educational events, you know we at FISU already have many activities but now FISU is cooperating more with universities, which gave us a great start to a new project involving universities directly—called the FISU Healthy Campus.”
Lilia introduced her colleague Fernando Parente—FISU Director of Healthy Campus and Universities Relations. Parente mentioned that it has already been almost one year since the launch of the FISU Healthy Campus programme and that there are currently 66 universities registered, with three being from the continent of Africa. This presentation also piqued the interest of some more African universities, who also inquired about joining the programme after the presentation.
Session: Inside FASU
Speaking on behalf of FASU was Hannington Musoke, FASU Administrator, who presented on a variety of topics about the federation—including the mission, vision and structure of FASU.
On the topic of hosting various university sports events in Africa, Musoke shared the vision that FASU has about moving forward and how sports events can literally change the landscape and develop a city even further.
“We can’t always focus on sport, but we also need to focus on education. We don’t want to reach a time where we only talk about athletes,” said Musoke. “We also don’t host for the sake of just hosting. We host for the sake of growing an event and developing an area; there is a lot of improvement that comes with hosting,” he explained.
Session: The Student Led System: Students, are we the pawn or the king in this chess game?
Mercy Lakisa—FISU Student Ambassador, member of the FISU Student Committee and FISU Media and Communication Committee—spoke on this topic about where students sit in all aspects of university sport.
“Students should be having more autonomy and more ownership. We are asking for a chance to sit at this table to discuss issues of importance to them, the students,” said Mercy.
She also spoke about promoting peace, cohesion, unity and encouraged others to continue being involved in sports and volunteering as part of the University Sport Movement. She continued to use the game of chess as an analogy to explain her views of the dynamic in university sport today.
“You can’t win a chess game without a king—if the king is in danger, you must do all you can to protect it. A pawn is considered the weakest and is a means of sacrifice—the smallest but yet the most in numbers. What is the number of students being able to make decisions in this castle?”
Session: Presentation of outcomes of the FISU-FASU-NUSF Seminar Dec 2020
Ms. Peninnah Aligawesa, FASU Secretary General and FISU Vice President, shared the discussion points of the seminar held in Kampala (Uganda) in December 2020. She outlined that there were 50 participants from 14 countries—including 46 online participants that took part in these discussions around the current global situation and how universities can react moving forward.
“There have been cancellations of events and other challenges, so it was time to think, review and strategise for the new norm,” mentioned Kabenge.
After this review was a panel discussion about the outcomes of the FISU-FASU-NUSF dialogue in December 2020 by five countries, discussing the topic of ‘Crafting Strategy in the face of uncertainity; Reviewing implementation Stories from FASU Seminar, Dec-2020’.
Represented by Botswana, Cameroon, Kenya, Libya and Benin, the discussions mainly revolved around the COVID-19 situation and how it affected different countries on the continent.
“COVID gave us time to review our structures so we’ve been doing quite a bit. We have been able to look at students as a body that can take part in the leadership of sports in our country. COVID has been important to us because the money we would use for events has been used to clear our debts—it has actually been a blessing,” said the representative from the Botswana Tertiary Student Sports Association (BOTESSA) followed by testimonials of the other nations.
Session: Achieving increased participation and higher performance of university student-athletes
Discussions on day two of the FISU-FASU Strategic Dialogue kicked off with a session about university student participation by Dr. Bezabih Wolde from the University of Addis Ababa and Treasurer of the Ethiopian Olympic Committee. Dr. Wolde’s presentation reinforced many points from the previous day’s sessions—namely those around technology, with the focus on sport shifting to a digital landscape among students and should be considered moving forward.
Presentation by hosts, bidders and other FASU events
The final presentations at the Strategic Dialogue revolved around the upcoming FASU events with different hosts, highlighting their preparations and plans for upcoming events.
Professor Paul K. Wainaina, Vice Chancellor of Kenyatta University, led a delegation to present the 10th FASU Games 2022 proposed for the month of June following their postponement from August 2020 due to the COVID 19 pandemic. The Vice Chancellor made history as the 1st head of a university to personally make a presentation on the preparations for the FASU Games at a FISU-FASU-NUSF Strategic Dialogue.
Other highlights were by hosts of the 2nd Kings of Africa University Rugby 7s Championship, by the Association of Uganda University Sports and Makerere University (UGA) scheduled for 9 & 10 October 2021—along with the 1st Africa Universities Soccer Championship hosted by the Ghana Universities Sports Association and also scheduled for October 2021 in the city of Accra.
Concluding remarks by FISU Acting President
Bringing the FISU-FASU-NUSF Strategic Dialogue and FASU General Assembly to a close, FISU Acting President Leonz Eder expressed his appreciation to FASU and NUSFs for hosting this event.
“Overall, the aim of the Strategic Dialogue was to connect, motivate and enable stakeholders gain insight about university sport in Africa and around the globe,” said Eder. “With approximately 120 participants in total, the two-day event was another good example of the successful cooperation between all university sports administrators and stakeholders in Africa, along with any other guests who were interested in attending.”
FISU Acting President Eder also expressed his gratitude for those involved, including all students, volunteers, university leaders, FISU leadership and staff involved for their commitment and hard work.
“I am looking forward to the next FASU Games and wish the organizers good luck for the preparation in these difficult times. I am looking forward meeting with you in person hopefully soon again.”
Although 2020 left much uncertainty for the global University Sport Movement, this edition of the FISU-FASU-NUSF Strategic Dialogue left one thing certain—there are new pathways to be explored for African university sport for students, administrators and all others involved. The next time that FISU, FASU and NUSFs will meet for the Strategic Dialogue is in 2023, for even more fruitful discussions about university sport in Africa.