Participants in the Rugby Africa-LUNEX Sports Management Training Programme 2024 believe they are already seeing the benefits of their involvement.

The second edition of the programme, which is the brainchild of Rugby Africa Women’s Rugby Manager Maha Zaoui, began at the beginning of March and features 23 female leaders from 21 nations across the continent.

It follows a successful pilot in 2021 and is being delivered in partnership with LUNEX University, which will co-sign the certificates awarded to participants.

Last weekend, those participants completed the fourth of six two-day online sessions, and following the conclusion of the classroom portion of the course, they will each submit their final project at the end of November.

Those projects are particularly important to the aims of the programme as they are designed to have a lasting impact on the participants’ unions and Rugby Africa has agreed to provide funding to turn at least three into reality.

Providing opportunities

And both Tjeludo Monyai and Nada Morsy say they have profited from their experience on the Sports Management Training Programme long before the certificates have been handed out.

“It’s helped me a lot to perform my job as a national team manager,” Egyptian Morsy told World Rugby.

“I worked as a volunteer in some NGOs, so all my decision making was based on my experience.

“What is quite good now is that I realised that the practices I employed are supported by some scientific and academic data, like HR management, strategic planning, how to recruit, retention.

“So, it’s helped me a lot to perform my job more efficiently.”

Botswana Rugby Union board member Monyai added: “[Making the step] from being a player to managing a team and now I’m on the board so this will really help me in that regard.

“The interesting part of this course is learning theory and then putting it into practice. That’s very exciting and from that we’ll get experience, we’ll get to learn more from different unions and then we take that experience back to our union.

“So, I believe this course came in at the right time. It’s giving us opportunities as women in Africa, leading and trying to build.”

Empowering African women

Empowering women in Africa to take on leadership roles in rugby has been at the heart of what Zaoui has worked to achieve since she was part of the inaugural Capgemini Women in Rugby Leadership Programme in 2018.

It was that goal that led her to set up the Sports Management Training Programme three years ago – based on her own experience on the Executive Masters in Sport Organisation Management [MEMOS] – and is apparent in how the former has developed.

This year, several participants from the inaugural programme have returned as tutors and Zaoui is keen for them to pass on their knowledge and experience.

Professor Dr Mathieu Winand, Head of the Department of Management at LUNEX, described Zaoui as a “strong change agent” as he explained why the applied sciences university was keen to partner with Rugby Africa.

“Rugby Africa is a very strong partner for us, a very interesting partner and [has] a very strong person in Maha as well, that we can trust to deliver good quality,” he said.

“We want to have an impact and especially [the programme] is focused on women, and empowering women is very important to us, to be seen as an institution that is really supporting women’s sport.”

Dr Winand delivered the ‘Managing Strategically’ sessions of the Sports Management Training Programme, which teaches as part of MEMOS, and he was impressed with the calibre of participants.

“The engagement has been excellent,” he added. “The engagement with the participants and between the participants has been very strong.

“You can see that there is something that’s binding them together, because they are from rugby. So, they have the rugby values.”