Africa Football Manufacturer Alive & Kicking Scoring Big In Football-Obsessed Nation
In "football-obsessed" Kenya, like much of Africa, the game "is more than just a sport for the laborers inside this brightly lit workshop on the outskirts of Nairobi, football is also serious business," according to Teo Kermeliotis of CNN. Surrounded by Arsenal and Liverpool team posters on either side of the walls, the blue-shirted workers "meticulously cut and stitch pieces of leather." Eyes straight down, "they put the final touches on the white and yellow footballs they're crafting on their wooden work stations." This is the Kenya-based hub of the only formal manufacturer of sports balls in Africa, Alive & Kicking. The social enterprise, which has two more plants in Zambia and Ghana, "uses the widespread popularity of football in the continent to help create jobs and offer disadvantaged children access to sport equipment." Alive & Kicking CEO Sughra Hussain said, "In Africa, the passion for football is absolutely immense. But according to our calculations, a third of children have actually never played with a real football before." Over the last nine years, Alive & Kicking "has produced more than 500,000 balls, including volleyballs and netballs." About half of them are sold in the major supermarkets of the countries the group works in, at a cost of around $18. However, Alive & Kicking, which employs 130 people in three countries, "is not only interested in the retail side of the business." More than just a company, the group "has donated a fifth of the balls it's produced -- more than 100,000 -- to schools and children's projects" (CNN, 5/15).