“African athletics is the future of world athletics. It is where there is the most opportunity for improvement. This is an opportunity to thank the African States and governments who do not hesitate to support their respective federations, which enables the Confederation of African Athletics to meet the continental competitions’ deadlines as was the case in Mauritius a few weeks ago”, said the Technical and Development Director of the Confederation of African Athletics (CAA) Mr. Aziz Daouda. In this interview, he also mentioned the remarkable participation of Africa in the Senior World Championships in Eugene, USA.
The 2022 Eugene World Athletics Championships ended with a good medals’ harvest for Africa which amounts to 9 Gold, 12 Silver, 7 Bronze, with a fabulous world record in 100m hurdles by Nigeria’s Tobi Amusan. With 28 medals collected, the African continent achieves its fourth best result in the world athletics championships. Are you satisfied with the results of African participation in these championships?
The manager I am, and by this I mean all the components of athletics, is pleased with the results obtained and is very pleased with them. You have here the materialization of the vision and strategy of President Hamad Kalkaba, that of the CAA Council and the entire African athletics family.
This vision and this strategy were voted unanimously at the Abidjan congress which sanctioned the first development plan and its results. They were confirmed at the Rabat congress where the development plan was to be readjusted according to the new development philosophy of World Athletics. This then transferred responsibility for development to the area associations.
Subsequently and given the pandemic, it was necessary to readjust the plan and adapt it to the new situation, this was done at a council meeting and with the approval of WA.
So, today, the confederation of African Athletics, through its AADC (African Athletics Development Center) has multiplied the number of trained executives for the benefit of the 54 member federations, as it has substantially increased the number of athletes who are trained in these centers. Training is increasingly done in collaboration with specialized universities and the programs are adapted to the realities and specificities of Africa.
We tend to forget that Africa is the largest continent in the world and that the distance between Tangier and Cape Town is almost the same between Dakar and Tokyo. This geographical reality alone should be enough to give pause to those who think that we can just transfer or copy certain European solutions to move forward.
This geographical data means, for example, that the cost of an African championship is six times higher than a European championship. An African athlete can travel by plane for 15 or 20 hours to be able to go to an African championship... Despite the difficulties that may be ours, the CAA today offers African athletes championships at world standards to be able to express themselves, and qualify for international competitions and thus honor their respective countries and their continent.
Regarding the results of African participation in the Eugene World championships, first of all, we congratulate the 7 African countries that won medals; Ethiopia, which ranked second at the Eugene World championships, and Kenya also for its ranking and confirmation of the consistency of its world level. Congratulations to Nigeria for the world record in the 100m hurdles but also to all the other countries which won medals: Uganda and its athletes who marked the championships, Burkina Faso and its medal in the triple jump, Morocco for having reconnected with Gold, Algeria which placed two athletes in the men's 800m final and won silver. Let us not forget that unfortunately Africa entered the Eugene championships with a major handicap: 23 African countries could not participate because their athletes and leaders did not receive entry visas to the USA. Of course the CAA deplores this unprecedented situation, but this first in a planetary championship should make the whole World Athletics family think about the choice of countries to which the honor falls to receive athletes from all over the world and the conditions that they should respect. As you know, Eugene has recorded a sad record of having seen only some 170 countries participate in the championships while we were still more than 200 delegations to take part in the largest event of world youth.
During these World championships, three world records were broken by Sweden's Armand Duplantis (6.21m Pole Vault), America’s Sydney McLaughlin (50''68 in the 400m hurdles) and Nigeria’s Tobi Amusan (12''12 in the 100m hurdles). Do you think the future of African sprinting looks bright in the next few years?
You note that out of all the continents, only Africa, Europe and North America have seen athletes achieve world records. That of Africa was carried out on 100 m hurdles women, an event where scarcely non-Americans had shone. This is to tell you that African athletics is diversifying and progressing in all events. From now on, no event scares our athletes anymore despite the lack of means and certain technological shortcomings in terms of recovery in particular.
Despite the fact that the number of African countries present in Eugene represented only 50% of the total of member countries and despite the poor performance of Côte d'Ivoire which had accustomed us to podiums and that of Namibia which had dazzled at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, we still won one more medal in Eugene compared to Doha in 2019: 28 against 27.
Given the results achieved and the emergence of new countries, do you think that African athletics is on the right way and will it be able to achieve better results at the Paris 2024 Olympics than those of Tokyo 2020?
For having the opportunity to measure the work done at the Confederation of African Athletics and the efforts made by the 54 member federations, I can assure you that African athletics is the future of world athletics. This is where there is the most opportunity for improvement. This is an opportunity to thank the African States and governments who do not hesitate to support their respective federations, those who allow the Confederation to meet the deadlines of continental competitions, as was the case in Mauritius a few weeks ago. As said above, Africa is a very vast continent, it is developing and has many other priorities and yet it is there to also promote its sporting youth and athletics in particular.
Do you know that we are the only continent whose athletes are present 365 days a year on all continents? There is not a day without an African athlete shining somewhere in the world. We participate for more than 35% in the world athletic animation, no continent can compete with Africa at this level. And then look at what happens on certain events, they are totally dominated by African athletes.
Beyond the convincing results and the good ranking at the Eugene World championships, there were great satisfactions but also disappointments. What are the tops and the flops (As an example, no African athlete on the podium of the 1500m men)?
Let's start with the biggest flop, it is unfortunate to see 50% of African countries deprived from participation, an absolute right which their membership of World Athletics confers on them. In abnormal conditions like these, it is difficult to speak of a flop in performance and we can but encourage African countries which did not appear in the ranking by points or those who have disappeared from the medal table to quickly regain their legitimate places. In sport it is like this, performance can come in waves and drop with each generation change.
Indeed the 1500m ranking is surprising when we have held the world record for the distance for forty years and that among our greatest legends of African and world athletics there are precisely 1500m runners like Hicham El Guerrouj or Noureddine Morcelli. Let's hope that this was only the logical consequence of tactical errors and that Africa will quickly regain its historic, if not legitimate, place.
As for the satisfactions, they are more than numerous. 7 African countries are among the top 40 nations; five in the top 30, 3 in the top 15 and 2 in the top five nations in the world. This is a very positive assessment in relation to the conditions of participation. Africa has proven here again that its progress is constant while consolidating its achievements in medals. The number of 9 gold medals obtained in Eugene is exactly the same as in Doha 3 years ago, while the number of silver medals went from 8 in Doha to 12 in Eugene.
In 2017 you initiated the second 10-year African athletics development plan, aiming, among other things, to improve the practice of athletics throughout the vast African continent and to raise the level in all athletics events. Can we say today that the clues are telling and that the CAA has achieved its intermediate objectives?
As said above, Africa does not sail by sight. It was the first continent to initiate a ten-year development plan and to encourage all member federations to do the same. Today the whole world seems to have copied this way of projecting itself into the future.
Indeed, 2017 was a pivotal year in the transition from the first plan, which had achieved almost all of its objectives, to another even more ambitious plan. While in the past our championships were often postponed or canceled, thanks to the foreground we have regularity in our organizations and the number of countries participating in these continental competitions has increased from a few countries to all member countries and the number of participating athletes is more than the double. And it's not just a matter of quantity.
Thanks to the second plan started in 2017, the quality of our competitions has greatly improved by calling upon African skills, even in terms of technology, which strengthens our skills and our potentials and confirms the progress made in all areas. The number of countries obtaining medals or qualifying athletes for the African and World finals is constantly increasing.
Our domination over cross country, middle distance and long distance is consolidated while many of the countries in the world are only present in these events by resorting to the naturalization of African athletes. Look at how many athletes of African origin are present in a 10,000m for example, but also look at the emergence of African athletes in other events and the progress of African records in all events
To objectively judge the progress made, I invite you to have a look at the African records list. You will realize that among men 26 records are from very recent dates. African women are doing even better as 29 records have been broken recently.
This is to tell you that the development plans have been able to guide the continent towards confirmed progress.
These achievements could have been even more impactful if the "Covid 19" pandemic had not been there impacting Africa and African athletes in particular for a long time.
This success is the result of the hard and long-term work of all and the materialization of efforts made in the executives’ training, in the scientific approaches in training, in the organization of one-day meetings on the continent and in the interest in younger generations.
We are the only continent to continue to organize championships for the U17s alongside the U20s. Watch the results of Africans at the U20 World Championships in Cali, Colombia.
The pride of the African athletics family is at its peak with the U20 world record in the men's 100m thanks to Botswana’s Letsile Tebogo who completed the distance in a canon time (9.91). A standout performance which made many people wonder whether they had the future Usain Bolt in front of them.
In this respect, are you therefore satisfied with the work being done at the level of the preparation and training centres?
AADC centers are a pillar of the CAA strategy. Today we have them in Cairo, Dakar, Lomé, Abidjan, Port Harcourt, Nairobi, Lusaka and Mauritius and we are expecting the opening of an AADC in Cape Verde soon. We also have agreements with Morocco and Ethiopia which make their infrastructure available to African countries.
The centers are responsible for training managers and athletes in support of national federations. At the same time, we have launched a few training units, supported by the confederation, such as in Antananarivo, Cairo and Nairobi. Many African champions with an international prize list have come from or continue to prepare in the AADCs. Of course, we do not yet have the means as we would like to have to go even further in this policy. Most of the work of President Hamad Kalkaba and the administration of the CAA goes in this direction: finding out and mobilizing even more means for the benefit of the development of African athletics.
We thank World Athletics for their continued support but also we think that we are not receiving the support due to us in proportion to our contribution to world athletics.
There are two classic ways to train high-level athletes: sport at school and at university, which only really succeeds in the USA, and there are clubs, as is the case in Europe. In Africa, neither the universities nor the clubs are equipped for this mission, so we have, on the continent, developed a third way: that of the centres.
I would like here to thank Kenya, which has done honor to Africa by hosting several World Athletics competitions on its soil and to express my disappointment and surely that of the whole African athletics family, when we saw that the 2025 world championships have not been awarded to this leading country. This is only a postponement. President Kalkaba had repeatedly insisted that at least five African countries were ready and able to take up the challenge of organizing the world senior championships. This is to say that if the championships had not been granted to Kenya it is surely not for lack of skills or means. The organization of world events in Africa has always enriched these events.
This is also and especially an opportunity to invite the African athletics family to greater solidarity. We are at a turning point in the development of world athletics and it is only together and hand in hand that we can meet all the challenges and move forward resolutely.
Interview by Mohammed Benchrif