Pickleball in Africa Just Reached a Major Milestone

Pickleball in Africa Just Reached a Major Milestone

Of all the burgeoning global pickleball scenes, players in Africa may very well show the most dedication to the sport. This is the first year pickleball has joined the lineup of sports offered at the African Games – and some teams have sacrificed a lot to be there.

Groups from Ghana, South Africa, Rwanda, Nigeria, Egypt, Benin, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Sierra Leone are currently competing in Accra, Ghana – fighting not only for titles and bragging rights, but to show the world that pickleball belongs in Africa.

I'm the head ref at the GPF/African Games tournament. Teams from ten African countries are here and they are obviously excited to participate in one of the first international tourneys to be held in Africa. Several players are playing with plywood paddles and one player sold a plot of his land to fund his team's trip. The addiction is real! - Referee Ron Ponder on Facebook

Case in point: Jeremiah Pratt and the Sierra Leone team

Pratt, a pickleball enthusiast who rounded up a team for his country, says he had to sell land bequeathed to him by his grandmother in order to afford proper transportation for the Sierra Leone athletes to attend “Africa’s Olympics.”

It wasn’t just financial strain they overcame – en route to Accra, the team became stranded in Liberia due to unforeseen passage costs. Pratt managed to find them transportation, but the delay cost them their first match.

Pratt’s goal is to bring pickleball – competitive and recreational play – to schools and communities throughout Sierra Leone.

“Pickleball is part of us, my family, and we are a part of pickleball,” he told The Kitchen.

As a result of his travels, he’s already received an invite to help teach pickleball in Guinea.

Sierra Leone pickleball team at the Africa Games
Sierra Leone team. Image courtesy Jeremiah Pratt.

An uphill battle

The fact that pickleball even entered this year’s games was itself a tiny miracle.

The Confederation of African Pickleball (CAP), which represents the sport, only formed last August. If pickleball hadn’t cleared acceptance into this year’s games, it would not have made its debut until the next installment in 2027.

The intent was to follow MLP style play with teams consisting of two men, two women, and a coach that would compete in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. 

Read Next: A Case For the Club

But four of the nine nations represented were only able to send one woman.

Zacharie Kamugisha, the owner of Silent Home Pickleball Club in Kigali, Rwanda and a founding member of the CAP, explained that due to the newness of the game, it’s been challenging to recruit enough women in a short time. 

“In Rwanda, we had a second woman who desired to compete in Ghana with us, but because we are not yet registered as a federation, it wasn’t possible to find funding support in time.”

“There are no public tennis courts that can be used for free like in the USA. I had this restaurant and space, so I decided to build Rwanda’s first dedicated pickleball court out of concrete and this is how we started to grow up the sport in Rwanda. It’s amazing to be here in Ghana now, and exciting to imagine what the future of African pickleball will be like.”

The Confederation of African Pickleball is a 501 C3 organization and is still fundraising to help cover the cost of travel for the teams.

Shop Our Store