“My mission in life is to ensure that no other African child with a love for sport feels like they cannot pursue it in the industry. I also aim to ensure that no other African girl with a love for sport feels limited in the industry due to her gender,” says Amy Wanday during her TEDx talk on shaping the future of sports in Africa.
This mission has been her guiding light since she fell in love with the transformative power of sports while she was an athlete in her home country, Kenya. “I saw how much of a better person sport made me. It gave me a strong sense of discipline which you learn by being an athlete. That was my earliest realization of how sport should be balanced with other things in order to equip people to be fruitful contributors in society,” she says.
The major catalyst for change, however, was Amy realizing how difficult it was to access sporting facilities and coaching in her country. This challenge, coupled with the stigma surrounding sports as a viable career path, especially for women, lay the ground for Amy’s enterprise to spring to life.
These realizations accompanied her all the way to South Africa when she began her two-year journey at African Leadership Academy in 2015. So when it was time to create a student enterprise through the Entrepreneurial Leadership course at ALA, Amy had just the idea: the African Sports Network (ASN).
Today, African Sports Network is a registered enterprise in Nairobi, Kenya, with a mission to transform the sports industry on the continent. In Amy’s words, “The African Sports Network is a youth organization that aims to empower and uplift African youth through sport. We believe in the power, innovation, and creation of ideas by young people when brought together that can change the narrative of the African sports industry.”
Taking lessons she learned while at ALA, Amy has built the African Sports Network using a 5-step model that includes an internally designed curriculum (which is an adaptation of ALA’s BUILD process); a guest speaker series set to inspire young sportsmen and women; a mentorship programme; scholarship access facilitation for students; and finally, access to a network where students can stay connected to their mentors as well as the friends they have made while working with ASN.
And it has proven effective! This year, Amy was recognized as the 3rd most influential Kenya Sports Personality and the 28th Most Influential Kenyan by Avance Media due to her work with ASN. In June, Amy won the Youth Sports Entrepreneur Award at the Kenya Youth Entrepreneurship Awards; and in November, she won the Arts, Sports and Culture Award at the Top Women in Business Awards.
Amy’s journey as an entrepreneur has not come without its challenges, though. Central to her challenges on this journey has been the lack of access to mentorship. “The lack of role models who are willing to hold my hand and walk this journey has been quite challenging. I see so many women from afar, in my industry and other industries who I wish I could just spend even one day with and learn a few things. Even committing to a few phone calls per year to check up on the journey and show support goes a very long way for a young entrepreneur. These are things I try to actively do and I will definitely continue to as I keep growing.”
But through the challenges, Amy has learned many lessons along the way, one of them being that “the idea I started with is definitely not what I do now. The ‘why’ is the same, but the’ how’ is different. You must be open-minded enough to accept different pathways of fulfilling your dream because if you set your mind on a certain method and refuse to listen to feedback and advice, you may not achieve your goals to the highest capacity possible.”
In the next five years, Amy hopes that ASN will have gone digital to reach more people and so that passionate sportspeople can take sports business courses, no matter where they are based on the continent. In the next 10-15 years, she hopes ASN’s scholars and athletes will be taking up leadership positions in their countries with the right mindset for advancement in order to create better systems that work for athletes and invest in the necessary infrastructure needed for their advancement.
“There is nothing better I would rather dedicate my time to. I have been an athlete and have faced the challenges I am working against therefore my motivation to change this experience for upcoming athletes is high as I know the feeling. In my eyes, an ideal world cannot exist without strong sporting structures and development, therefore, I am working hard and doing my best to contribute to that change to shape the future of the sports industry in Africa.”
Follow the work that Africa Sports Network is doing by visiting their website here.