Disability Sport in Sub-Saharan Africa: From Economic Underdevelopment to Uneven Empowerment

NOVAK, Andrew

Publication Date 

20 pp

Although athletes with disabilities have integrated into mainstream sport at a rapid rate across the world, Sub-Saharan Africa remains on the periphery of disability sport participation. Disability sport, like most modern regulated sports, has diffused from the Global North to the Global South, and continues to reproduce that process of diffusion though increasingly expensive sport prostheses, adapted equipment, and coaching techniques. The colonial underdevelopment of disability services and coexisting racial inequalities has led to the uneven diffusion of disability sport across the continent, which is reflected by South Africa’s domination of African participation in the Paralympic Games. The result is a ‘disability divide’ in international sport, where the increasing access to technology and sport assistance from the Global North largely benefits a few privileged elite disability athletes, most famously South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius. Presented from a historical perspective, the article traces the origins of the ‘disability divide,’ concluding that integration between disabled and non-disabled athletes around the world may reinforce the continent of Africa’s subordinate status in global capitalism through dependence on international sport aid and athletic migration.


Disability and the Global South (DGS), 2014, Vol. 1 No. 1

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Country focus 


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