Egypt has the potential to play a major role in the development of canoe sports through Africa, International Canoe Federation President Thomas Konietzko has told a conference in Cairo on Wednesday.

The conference was attended by around 100 stakeholders of canoeing, the Vice President of the NOC, Dr Aladin Gabr, and representatives of the Ministry of Sport.

Mr Konietzko announced the ICF will work in close cooperation with the African Canoe Confederation to adopt a new approach to the development and growth of canoeing throughout Africa, by specifically targeting national federations that are already making progress in the support of paddle sports.

The ICF has announced the appointment of a continental director, funded by the ICF, who will work to get more children involved in canoeing, and to train and develop coaches at all levels.

“In the past, we have tried to spread our development efforts and investment in training, education and delivery of new equipment across as many countries as possible on the African Continent,” Mr Konietzko said.

“We have analysed the results of this strategy and determined that this was not the most efficient way of developing canoe on the African Continent. As our resources are also limited, we have decided to support African Canoe Federations, beside other ongoing activities like our development camps, with additional targeted programmes in the future.

In a first step the ICF Continental director will help the Egyptian clubs to create models to encourage more kids to start with canoeing.

Part of the project will focus on identifying and educating new coaches and officials and to educate the coaches of the national teams. The final step has set a goal to have talented athletes and their coaches train with strong European nations to further enhance their development.

Mr Konietzko praised the Egypt Canoe and Kayak Federation for the work it has already done to ensure canoe sports have a strong foothold throughout the country. He said this could not have been achieved without the support of the Egyptian National Olympic Committee and the Egyptian Government.

“There is a good structure here with numerous clubs at the grassroots level and a strong national canoe team. The world-class organisation of the Nile Regatta inspires not only African nations but nations and athletes around the world,” he said.

“More and more Egyptians are practicing canoeing as a recreational activity and using this as a means to stay healthy. Recreational canoeing is as important for your society as high-performance sport, so should be also an objective for growth in this area for the Federation.

“With all these activities the Egyptian Canoe Federation will become a role model in our sport in Africa.”

Mr Konietzko told the conference there have already been major steps taken in the global spread of canoeing. In London in 2012, nearly all of the Olympic medals went to European countries. But in Tokyo last year the medals were spread across four continents.

This continued growth was necessary to strengthen canoeing’s place in the Olympic movement, he said, and was a direct result of the ICF’s strategy to focus development activities on continents outside of Europe.

Two weeks ago the ICF and ANOCA (Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa) signed an MOU to work together to increase canoeing activities on the continent. Egypt, Mr Konietzko said, will be one of the nations the ICF will look to lead the projects.

“We can only succeed in implementing these goals in a joint effort by all partners,” he said.

“Let us all work together to make canoeing even stronger in Egypt, and fulfil our common dream of Egyptian athletes competing for Olympic medals. For this, we as the ICF will do everything we can.”