Sport and development


French diplomacy attaches great importance to sport’s contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals. French sports expertise and holding the biggest international sporting events in France is generating growing interest from our partners to increase cooperation in this area.

Sports projects at local level

Since 2019, 18 projects from the solidarity fund for innovative projects (FSPI) using sport as a lever for development, education and gender equality have been funded by the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (MEAE) and the French diplomatic network has helped implement them. Two examples of iconic projects:

  • Iraq (2022-2024): partnership with the French Football Federation with a view to developing women’s football. The women’s national team has training courses and sessions at Clairefontaine, the aim being for the players to be role models in their country, to encourage young Iraqi girls to play sports. The project also supports educators to structure women’s football in Iraq over the long term.
  • Senegal (2020-2022): support for structuring a training programme for high-level athletes by developing sports sections in schools, promoting professional sporting careers and structuring the e-sport industry.

In early 2023, 5 new FSPI projects were launched, such as the creation of local sports facilities in Cameroon to encourage social and professional integration for young people, especially women, through sport. There are also about 20 “fast FSPI” projects (with a maximum length of one year), some of which will finance the arrival in France of pre-identified volunteers selected by Embassies during the 2024 Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games, but also a civic service experiment, in line with France Volontaires.

Decentralized sports cooperation

Decentralized cooperation in the area of sports has also become commonplace. It has significantly increased since the creation of a specific call for projects in 2021, launched by the External Action of Local Government Department (DAECT). This call for projects has enabled 35 cooperation projects to be financed between French and foreign local government bodies, worth a total of €3.2 million. Locally, several of these projects have contributed or continue to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals while bringing populations closer together, such as physical and sports education trainers from the Hauts-de-Seine department travelling to Bisoro in Burundi to demonstrate new sports to their counterparts, with the aim of holding a rugby tournament between children from schools in the two areas at the end of 2024.

Institutional support for sports structuring

To support this rise in sports diplomacy, which brings together many existing cooperation frameworks, the MEAE, via its agency Expertise France, is also seeking French sports expertise to strengthen sports institutions, including through the deployment to Africa of international technical experts (ITE) specializing in sport. So far, 6 French experts have been or are about to be placed in regional institutions or sports Ministries in Senegal (two experts), Gabon, Rwanda, Tanzania and Cameroon.

Sport as an integral part of AFD action

The MEAE was charged with implementing several measures of the 2024 France Heritage Plan, particularly the measure to “Support cohesion and social innovation through sport in countries in which the AFD operates”. In this context, in February 2018, the AFD was mandated by the French government to make sport a tool to serve the Sustainable Development Goals. Since then, over €112 million has been allocated to cooperation projects, over 74 athletes have received support and over 100 projects have been backed in all AFD countries of operation.

For example, the AFD has financed projects to strengthen women’s rugby in Benin, to develop sports academies combining sports and education (in Senegal, Liberia, Morocco, Cameroon, Mali and South Africa) and to increase social cohesion on the continent through the Sport en Commun platform, including by helping high-level French and African athletes to set up associations in the fields of sport and development.

The Impact 2024 International programme launched in 2021 by the AFD and the Paris 2024 Olympic & Paralympic Games Organizing Committee has already enabled 45 projects to be undertaken in 19 African countries. These projects have helped over 77,000 people, with total investment of €1.4 million.

Updated: October 2023