Pickleball made its debut at the continental stage as an exhibition sport at the recent African Games in Accra
Pickleball made its debut at the continental stage as an exhibition sport at the recent African Games in Accra

Pickleball: Historic moment and growth potential in Africa

For the first time in the history of the African Games, pickleball took centre stage at the 13th edition held in Accra, marking a significant milestone for the sport on the continent. 


The event witnessed a vibrant display of pickleball prowess, captivating both local enthusiasts and international observers alike.

Ghana’s George Nyarkoh emerged as a standout figure, dazzling spectators with his skillful manoeuvres during the quarter-final matches. The atmosphere was electric, with cheers and applause echoing across the courts as players vied for victory in this rapidly growing sport.

Nyarkoh, alongside his compatriot Joseph Kofi Acheampong, clinched a well-deserved bronze medal in the doubles category, further solidifying their status as formidable contenders in the pickleball arena.

Having made history as the first Ghanaian to claim gold at the national pickleball championship in 2023, Nyarkoh's journey to the top of the game has been nothing short of remarkable.

However, his passion for pickleball is not without its challenges.

Despite his success at the 13th African Games, Nyarkoh remains committed to nurturing talent on the tennis courts of the University of Ghana Sports Directorate, highlighting the need for greater support and investment in the sport.

The Ghanaian pickleball community faces financial constraints, but efforts are underway to provide essential resources for Nyarkoh and his team as they prepare for upcoming tournaments, including the Kenya Open.

Nyarkoh’s achievements have garnered widespread recognition, propelling him to the forefront of the African pickleball scene. As he navigates the demands of training, competition and financial limitations, the support of the pickleball association is crucial in elevating his career to the professional level.

The recent success of the pickleball national championship and the subsequent ranking tournament in Ghana underscores the growing popularity of the sport within the country. With initiatives aimed at promoting pickleball across Africa, the President of the Ghana Pickleball Association, Dr Kwabena Dautey Akufo, envisions a future where pickleball becomes accessible to all.

“As we look into the future, this is just the beginning. Our goal is to make pickleball accessible to every home, town and city in Africa,” he said.

Originating in the United States in 1965, pickleball, sport blending elements of ping-pong, badminton???? and tennis, has rapidly gained popularity worldwide, captivating players of all ages with its unique blend of athleticism and strategy. With its distinctive paddle and waffle-like ball, pickleball offers a dynamic and inclusive sporting experience, attracting millions of participants globally.

Joseph Kofi Acheampong - Ghana’s number two pickler 

According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, pickleball boasts 8.9 million participants with a staggering growth rate of 158.6 per cent. This growth extends to Africa, with 17 countries expressing interest in the Confederation of African Pickleball.

At the 13th African Games, players from South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Benin, DR Congo and Egypt showcased the game in its first continental tournament. 

Despite the game's versatility, logistical challenges hinder its progress in Africa. While four pickleball courts can fit into one tennis court, dedicated facilities remain scarce in countries such as Ghana. Addressing issues of infrastructure, logistics and training is crucial to advancing the sport across the continent.

Some African nations, notably South Africa and Kenya, have organised national tournaments, signalling a commitment to nurturing local talent. In September, the Kenya Open in Nairobi is expected to attract top players. 

Dr Akufo, President of the Confederation of African Pickleball, highlights the game's potential for professionalism in Africa, emphasising the goal of making it accessible continent-wide.

“African pickleball, pickleball for the people, embodies our shared vision of making pickleball accessible to all.”

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