A student in the graduate program in Sport Management at Washington State University, where I work, recently shared a very interesting resource following a class discussion on the effects of mass media effect.
When looking at news media coverage and trends from an agenda-setting viewpoint, it is interesting to observe the different amounts of coverage dedicated to national vs. international stories in various countries. One of my areas of interest, and one I hope to move further into in the coming years, are post-colonial countries, many of which can be found in Africa.
Almost all major (U.S. and international) networks and broadcasters pay little attention to the continent, with the bright exceptions of the BBC and Al Jazeera, whose purpose includes being a global mainstream voice for the Arab world and Africa. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, Al Jazeera recently announced the imminent closing of their U.S. channel, Al Jazeera America.
This is a loss for cultural, as well as financial reasons: Africa is next in line in terms of great economic development. After China lifted a stunning 680 million people out of poverty over the course of just 30 years, consumption of goods and services including sports increased greatly (does the name Yao Ming ring a bell?). Nowadays, the NBA and the UEFA Champions League are the most popular sports leagues in the country of 1.3 billion people.
What does Africa have to do with college athletics, which is the field the student from the first sentence operates in? Well, the United States are the 18th most obese nation world-wide–and the most obese nation in the OECD–so in a generation or two, American universities will have a very limited pool of fit student athletes to recruit from (with the exception of American football, where obesity is not a limitation for some playing positions).
Recruitment in Europe is already widespread; at Washington State University alone, non-revenue women’s basketball has 7/14 players (50%) coming from outside the United States, while in tennis, the share is 100%; WSU has not had an American varsity tennis player since 2012. But Europe is hardly a “secret” for the hundreds of American universities eager to attract athletic talent. Also, the competition from local universities is strong–Central Europe and Scandinavia have started recruiting international high school students for academic purposes as well.
With a population of 37 million or so, Oceania is too small to become a sustainable source of athletic talent, so the next obvious, and largely untapped, frontier will be Africa: the world’s youngest continent, where half of its 1.1 billion inhabitants are under the age of 19, and 70% of the population is under the age of 30. Elite soccer has moved into the continent to establish “farm systems” years ago.
The first educational institutions to realize the potential will profit handsomely from an athletic viewpoint and will have an opportunity (and the great responsibility) to elevate the educational, and thus social, level of the continent. Hopefully, they will do so responsibly. Until then, I will be researching, teaching, and consulting.