Bharti Airtel (“Airtel”), a leading telecommunications services provider with operations in 20 countries across Asia and Africa and Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd, a global leader in technology today announced a partnership to support the largest under 17 grassroots tournament on the African continent. Under the multi-million dollar agreement, Samsung will also become the Official Device Partner of the Airtel Rising Stars (ARS) tournament.
Working with various educational institutions in 17 English and French speaking countries, the youth soccer initiative involves 0ver 18,000 teams and more than 400,000 young boys and girls across the continent. The initiative recorded a 65% growth in participation in 2012 and looks set to grow even larger. It is also supported by two of the biggest soccer clubs in the world; Arsenal FC and Manchester United; and aims to identify and nurture future talent in Africa. Airtel has sponsorship agreements in place with Manchester United and Arsenal to develop emerging soccer talent in Africa and utilize their globally recognizable brand assets to enhance youth related commercial activity. ARS has established itself as a strong feeder program for National teams’ coaches on the continent and a good number of the ARS alumni have been absorbed into Africa Premier League Clubs, as well as into their country’s national teams.
George Ferreira, Vice President and COO of Samsung Electronics, Africa says: “Africa is the world’s youngest continent. The proportion of youth in the region is higher than on any other continent. According to World Bank estimates, 60% of Africa’s population of more than 1 billion people are youth. And it keeps growing rapidly. The number of young people in Africa is forecast to double by 2045. Our youth have the potential to be a great impetus for Africa’s development, provided that an appropriate investment in human capital is made. This investment will help spotlight Africa’s potential, and we are proud to be associated with such development.”
Commenting on the partnership, Andre Beyers, Chief Marketing Officer for Airtel Africa said: “The collaboration with Samsung will transcend the commercial arena and enable the Airtel Rising Stars tournament achieve greater scale and long-term sustainability. The next season, which is now in its third year, starts end April 2013. Airtel is already the largest supporter of youth soccer on the continent and together with Samsung; we will ensure it is not just the biggest, but also the most consistent supporter of grassroots football in Africa. It not only showcases talent but most importantly for us, enables the young boys and girls to experience fun and enjoyment.”
There is a robust commercial partnership between the two giants in Africa. Airtel is the 4th largest telecommunications company in the world and currently has the largest footprint of any telecoms company in Africa with a presence in 17 countries across Africa. Africa is now the second largest and fastest mobile phone market in the world after China. Samsung recently announced plans to double its smartphone marketing plans in Africa as part of a strategy to bridge the continent’s digital divide and is currently riding high on the global scene as the number one smartphone vendor. It is enhancing its sales and marketing programmes in Africa to enable local mobile phone subscribers enjoy Internet access on smart devices.
Mr. Ferreira added: “Samsung is also strategically focusing on forging a partnership with Airtel in Africa to reach out to consumers across sub Saharan Africa. Together with Airtel, we will be showcasing mobile devices centred around satisfying consumer desire to use technology as a means of self expression. Our consumers expect mobile devices to fit seamlessly into their lifestyles and open the way to new experiences and we are focused on delivering on this promise through Smart solutions for Africa.”
The pan African tournament has yielded many success stories. Priscilla Okyere’s story is probably the most inspiring one. This teenager, who was discovered during the ARS tournament, is the current captain of Ghana’s Under-17 National Girls’ team. She led her team to clinch the bronze medal at the 2012 FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup in Azerbaijan.
There is a novelty this year: young people who are not gifted with the ball at their feet will not feel left out as Airtel and Samsung are poised to launch a mobile football app contest for Samsung on Android. The month-long competition will encourage techies to submit their apps where a panel of judges will pick the best 2 apps for commercialization.