Rio 2016

Even with South Africa and Zimbabwe’s Olympic Appearances, African Women’s Football Still Has Ways to Go

With FIFA’s first African female Secretary General, and South Africa and Zimbabwe’s presence at the Olympics, African women’s football is on the rise.

As in the rest of the world, African football has long been dominated by men—and the proof’s in the ticket sales. In Rio, the top tickets for the women’s football quarterfinal will cost 100 reals, while football fans seize the best seats for the men’s quarterfinal for 200 reals. Despite greater attention to gender inequities in football—partially fueled by a federal wage complaint filed by female American players—disparities on the African pitch fail to attract the same level of attention.

As in the rest of the world, African football has long been dominated by men—and the proof’s in the ticket sales. In Rio, the top tickets for the women’s football quarterfinal will cost 100 reals, while football fans seize the best seats for the men’s quarterfinal for 200 reals. Despite greater attention to gender inequities in football—partially fueled by a federal wage complaint filed by female American players—disparities on the African pitch fail to attract the same level of attention.

With African women’s football often relegated to the background, the appearance of Banyana Banyana (South Africa) and the Mighty Warriors (Zimbabwe) at the Rio Olympic Games is huge. Although both teams lost during the first and second stages of the matches, their presence at the games is an achievement for a region where many countries still lack proper women’s leagues.

In South Africa, home to one of the continent’s best-funded networks of football clubs, women’s football is guaranteed a mere eight percent of the South African Football Association budget. There is no professional league for South African female footballers despite the fact that Banyana Banyana won more matches than men’s team Bafana Bafana.

According to Fran Hilton Smith, the head of women's football at the South African Football Association, “[It is difficult for women to compete because] it's not something that brings in any income, it doesn't attract big sponsors, it's a costly exercise and, especially in Africa to travel to play international matches is outrageously expensive.”

Organized women’s football is a relatively new phenomenon on the continent where about only 30 countries have national-level women’s football associations. Continental championship games began in 1991 when the Confederation of African Football began sponsoring the Africa Women Cup of Nations (AWCN)—nearly 35 years after the start of the men’s competition.

Even in the case of Nigeria’s women’s team, who has a history of high performance and a record nine AWCN wins, compensation is poor. After qualifying for the Cup, the Nigeria Football Federation handed the players 10,000 naira ($50) each. The Super Eagles, the men’s team, in contrast receive $4,000 for a draw and $5,000 for a win. With paltry pay for their past victories, there is little incentive to participate. While Nigeria has traditionally dominated the AWCN, the Super Falcons failed to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics because of club engagements and injuries.

In a multi-billion dollar industry, these kinds of disparities are a big deal. For exceptional African players, football can be an opportunity to enhance social mobility through access to lucrative contracts and scholarships. In 1999, Nigerian forward Mercy Akide’s performance at the quarterfinals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup lead to a 4-year scholarship to Milligan College in Tennessee alongside teammate Florence Omagbemi. Akide went on to join American professional team San Diego Spirit and joined a FIFA Women’s All-Star team in 2004. Akide’s exceptional success remains near impossible for African women without sufficient sponsorship deals, equipment, coaches, media coverage, and, most importantly, leagues.

In recent times, some African women footballers, such as BBC Women's Footballer of the Year Gaëlle Enganamouit of Cameroon, have enjoyed considerable success in Scandinavia, the world leader in the development of women's soccer.

Akide and Enganamouit’s careers as high-flying professional African women footballers are the exception rather than the rule; however, as women’s teams gain greater exposure with high-level football competitions in this age of social media, more African women may be encouraged to take to the pitch. Greater international competition creates much-needed opportunities to improve performance against top-quality opponents—and provides much-needed exposure.

With the recent appointment of Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura as FIFA’s first female, non-European Secretary General, and South Africa and Zimbabwe’s spirited play at this year’s Olympic Games, African women’s football may be poised for greater visibility.


The Best African Memes of 2018

Laugh with us into 2019 with OkayAfrica's best African memes of 2018.

Meme culture has become a mainstay on these internet streets. It's essentially an alternate form of communicating, of commentary and of simple laughter. 2018 had its fair share of highs and lows, and young Africans continue to utilize memes to celebrate or to cope with the nonsense.

To reflect on the African memes that broke the internet this year, we tapped contributors and African meme tastemakers to list the best African memes of 2018.

Laugh away below.

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The Black Women Who Made Big Strides in France in 2018

Yes, this was a bad year for many reasons, but we can still celebrate the black women who rose to prominence

Back in 2015, a group of Black women activists appeared in the French media: les afrofems. They were and still are, fighting against police brutality, for better inclusion in the media and to destroy harmful sexual stereotypes surrounding black women among other worthy goals. Since then, more influential Black women have gained a bigger representation in the media. And, even better, some of the afrofems activists, like Laura Nsafou and Amandine Gay, have made films and written books to bring more diversity to the entertainment industry.

2018 has, in many ways, been a year where black women made strides in France, at least in terms of culture. From winning Nobel prizes, to having best selling books and being on top of the charts, Black French women have showed that, no matter how much France wants to keep them under the radar, they're making moves. And, no matter the tragedies and terrible events that have shaped the year, it is something worth celebrating.

France's New Queen of Pop Music

We begin with Aya Nakamura, France's new queen of pop music. Her song Djadja was a summer hit. Everyone from Rihanna, to the French football team who successfully won their second world cup, sang it. Her sophomore album "Nakamura" has been certified gold in France and is still on top of the charts. She is the first French singer to have a number one album in the Netherlands since Edith Piaf in 1961. The last time a black woman was as visible in pop music was in 2004, with Lynsha's single "Hommes...Femmes".

Nakamura has received a huge backlash, mostly due to misogynoir—misogyny directed towards black women where race and gender both play roles. From a French presenter butchering her African first name despite the fact that he can easily pronounce words like "Aliagas", to online trolls calling her ugly and manly when a picture of her wearing no makeup surfaced, to people complaining that she is bringing down the quality of the entire French pop music industry, Nakamura responds to her critics gracefully. Her music is not groundbreaking but her album is full of catchy songs with lyrics using French slang she masters so well that she came up with her own words like "en catchana" (aka doggy style sex). And most importantly, many black girls and women can finally see someone like them in the media getting the success she deserves.

The Nobel Prize Winner

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Another Black French woman has broken records this year: the Guadeloupean writer Maryse Condé who won the Alternative Nobel Prize, a prize meant to replace the Nobel Prize in Literature, after the scandal that the Swedish Academy of Literature faced last year. Condé wrote her first novel at only 11 years old and has been prolific ever since. A former professor of French literature at Columbia University, she has published more than 20 books since the 1970s, exploring the complex relationships within the African diaspora. "Segu", her most famous novel, is about the impact of the slave trade and Abrahamic religion on the Bambara empire in Mali in the 19th century. Condé's work is radical and she remains committed to writing feminist texts exploring the link between gender, race and class, as well as exploring the impact of colonialism. Condé is a pillar of Caribbean literature and it's taken long enough for her work has been acknowledged by the Nobel prize committee.

The Children's Books Writers

From Comme un Million de Papillon Noir

And finally, 2018 has been the year where France's children's literature industry has finally understood how important, for the public, writers and publishers, being inclusive and diverse was. From Laura Nsafou's Comme un Million de Papillon Noir, a best selling book about a young black girl learning to love her natural hair which sold more than 6000 copies, to Neiba Je-sais-tout: Un Portable dans le Cartable, the second book of Madina Guissé published this year after a successful crowdfunding campaign, there are more and more children's and young adult books with non white protagonists. In France, there are still no stats about how diversity is doing, but in America, in 2017, only 7 percent of writers of children's literature were either Black, Latino or Native American.

There's still much to accomplish in France for the Black community to have better representation in the media, politics and all walks of life, but important strides have been accomplished this year, and it make me hopeful for what 2019 and the following years have in store.


J Hus Has Been Sentenced to Eight Months in Jail for Knife Possession

The rapper has been convicted following an arrest in June.

Gambian-Biritish grime rapper J Hus has been sentenced to eight months in prison for knife possesion, reports BBC News.

The artist, neé Momodou Jallow, was arrested in Stratford London in June when police pulled him over near a shopping center, claming that they smelled cannabis. Police officers asked Hus if he was carrying anything illegal, to which the rapper admitted that he had a 10cm folding knife in his possession. When asked why, he responded: "You know, it's Westfield."

Hus pleaded guilty at a hearing in October after initially pleading not guilty.

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