Pickleball: Serving Up a New Sport Across Africa

Author: Matt Callcott-Stevens

Editor: Richard Walsh (Pickleballbits.com)

Date: 28 February 2024

Pickleball, the fastest growing sport in the United States, has landed on our continent, and this March, the sports best descend on the shores of Accra for the 13th All Africa Games. The game that combines tennis, badminton, and table tennis will showcase the continent’s finest talents from 11 - 14 March 2024.

The Confederation of African Pickleball consists of 18 Nations, with 13 member states scheduled to participate in the Games.

What is Pickleball?

If you have never heard of the sport pickleball, imagine combining a tennis and badminton court while using table tennis rules. Pickleball courts are smaller than a tennis court and approximately the same size as a doubles badminton court.

The scoring follows the structure of table tennis, where the first team to 11 points wins the game, but you can only win a point on your serve.

On a casual level, the sport is best enjoyed by four players who compete in a doubles format against each other. Like tennis, you can also play singles, and the All Africa Games will showcase both formats of pickleball, giving fans a 360-degree perspective of this action-packed racquet sport.

Pickleball Takes Root in Africa:

Compared to football, the most popular sport on the continent, pickleball is a young game created only 59 years ago. It is still in its infancy in Africa, with few dedicated courts for picklers to test their skills. However, the activity is catching on from Cape Town to Cairo and Accra to Nairobi.

We encountered two other establishments who stake claim to pioneering dedicated pickleball courts in Africa: Mazagan Beach & Golf Resort in Morocco and Memel Global in South Africa. Our research concluded that Mazagan beat Memel to it.

Mazagan Beach & Golf Resort

Located south of Casablanca, Mazagan Beach & Golf Resort is best known for their luxury accommodation and world class facilities. They opened in 2009 and ten years later, they constructed their first dedicated courts on site.

Since 2019, the word has spread beyond Moroccan borders concerning the entertaining nature of pickleball, leading to a healthy selection of courts all the way from Cairo to Johannesburg.

Megan Charity

Before Steven Ablondi and his wife Heidi started building pickleball courts in Memel, word was starting to spread about a new enjoyable pastime. United States based, South African pro, Megan Charity, took up pickleball in 2015 while on a tennis scholarship at Campbell University.

Charity excelled in pickleball as she did tennis, eventually turning pro and reaching a career-high pickleball world ranking of 16th. Megan is one of the pros fans are hopeful they will see in action during the games.

Daniel Moore

From accomplished professionals to future stars, East Africa is proving to be a breeding ground for pickleball talent. Top-seeded Kenyan star Brian Omwando told me that he was first introduced to the sport by professional Daniel Moore, who conducted a pickleball clinic at the tennis club where Omwando played.

Brian Omwando

The “smiling assassin,” as Brian is affectionately known, enjoyed the sport immediately. Although he and his partners did not understand the rules at first, he grew to understand the game after watching reels and videos on Instagram.

Besides playing, Omwando coaches the next generation of talent at the Nairobi Pickleball Club he founded in 2023. The club hosted an international tournament in 2023 with participants from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, the United States, India, and Brazil, and it is home to 120 keen picklers.

The Growing Pickleball Family:

Confederation of African Pickleball And Dr. Kwabena Akufo

The Confederation of African Pickleball is mandated to grow the sport across the continent. What started as a vision by the Confederation president, Dr. Kwabena Akufo, has become a reality thanks to the work of his team.

Individuals like Babatunde Epoyun, Collins Munene, Baher Elmasry, Dr. Elizabeth Krebs, and Zachary Kamugisha are as much responsible for the formation of the confederation as the good doctor himself. Together, the team has pulled off the impossible and given the sport a platform at the biggest games on the continent.

18 African National Pickleball Associations

The Confederation comprises 18 national federations, and it continues to grow. Benin, Cameroon, D.R. Congo, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Egypt. West Africa currently has the most party members in the federation, followed by East Africa.

Rally Sports And Amitabh Jain

The passionate folks in Africa who are working on growing sports in Africa have been joined by the international organizations and individuals like Rally Sports Venture and Amitabh Jain. Their unwavering support to the Confederation of African Pickleball and initiatives in helping the pickleball event in the 13th African Games has been instrumental in raising the profile of pickleball on both sides of the Atlantic.

Beyond the Game: Health and Wellness:

Besides competitive matches, pickleball is an easy sport for anyone to play, and it offers an excellent workout. The effectiveness of pickleball as a workout depends on how often you play, your time on the court, and most importantly, your diet.

I know some picklers who comfortably shed up to 800 calories during a two-hour match while other body types might only lose 400 calories on the court. Pickleball also suits picklers who are in shape because it's an excellent cardiovascular workout, thanks to the quick turns and lunges required to reach the ball.

Beyond physical fitness, pickleball is a highly sociable sport, both on and off the court. It helps you bond with your loved ones when you partner with them in a match, and afterward, you share a meal and a beverage with your opponents. In my experience, pickleball fosters a sense of community that you can rely on in good and tough times.

Affordability: A Hurdle to Clear:

While pickleball is praised for its affordability compared to tennis or squash, the equipment is still on the higher end for the average African pickler. Omwando explained to me that an entry-level paddle from BOK fetches KES 5,800, equivalent to $40. That is a hefty penny to fork out when the average middle-class monthly salary is KES 94,000.

Brands in Africa are importing affordable paddles from China but the import and shipping duties lead to a non-competitive price. Omwando is well versed in the challenge of sourcing affordable paddles and told me he had his first pickleball paddle made by a carpenter in Nairobi. It was a simple wooden paddle, a far cry from the high-quality composite Selkirk paddle he plays today.

While Omwando has overcome all the obstacles thrown his way, the challenges still persist for many others across Africa. What is considered a ‘cheap game’ in the United States and Canada is a pricey endeavor for African picklers.

If pickleball is to overcome this hurdle and capture the hearts of the continent, they will need to do more to address the barrier to entry. This means looking at local manufacturing opportunities on the continent and working with authorities to build more dedicated pickleball facilities that are easily accessible in rural and urban centers across Africa.

Finding Your Pickleball Court:

Despite the rapid growth of pickleball, not every country or city in Africa has dedicated courts or sufficient space to play. The best solution is to contact your national federation or association responsible for pickleball to see where you can play.

Some African countries have yet to form a pickleball association, which opens opportunities for go-getters looking to spread the gospel in their country. Pickleball South Africa has the most detailed site highlighting all the locations around the country where you can fit in a game of pickleball.

For those living outside of South Africa, you can contact your local representatives on social media or via email to get the ball rolling.




South Africa

Pickleball SA



Pickleball Players Association Nigeria



Uganda Pickleball Association



Cameroon Pickleball Association



Tanzania Pickleball



Gambia Pickleball Federation


Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone Pickleball Association

No website available


Nairobi Pickleball Club



Zimbabwe Pickleball Association



Cairo Pickleball Academy



De Goulmima Pickleball Club Maroc



Fédération Béninoise de Pickleball



Rwanda Pickleball Organisation 


Future is Bright:

My conversations with Brian Omwando and Collins Munene left me excited about the future of pickleball in Africa. We are blessed with a generation of driven young leaders who are happy to put in the groundwork and build the sport one court at a time.

While there are some questions over the affordability of equipment and access to courts, that will change over time as the profile of the sport grows. The beauty of pickleball is that anyone can play. Whether you are 5 or 85, there is a place on the court for you.

If you want to participate in the inevitable boom of the sport across the continent, you just need to start playing and bring your friends and family along. The powers that be are on a mission to make pickleball an Olympic sport, which means every country needs to take it seriously if they are to challenge the United States for medals in the years ahead.

The inclusion of pickleball as an exhibition sport at this year's All Africa Games is only the beginning of a long road to Olympic recognition. There is no better place to put the viability of the sport to the test on the African continent.

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