Photo: © Alive and Kicking.  Herve Renard, Zambia national team coach, meets and A&K Stitchers.

Alive & Kicking – Africa’s Ball Maker Enters New Markets

By Simon Hilditch, Alive & Kicking

It is increasingly acknowledged that growth in manufacturing is key to reducing poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. The 120 – 150 jobs sustained by stitching sports balls in Kenya and Zambia, with up to 50 more to come in Ghana, is a small but significant part of that crucial trend. With ‘Balls For Africa’ currently on the shelves of John Lewis, the export potential of African products continues to shine through.

Alive & Kicking is an African social enterprise that manufactures sports balls, creating sustainable employment for adults, providing quality balls for kids and promoting health education through sport.


Originally established using a grant from DfID’s Business Linkages Challenge Fund, Alive & Kicking understands the vital role that social business can play in lifting communities out of poverty. The 120 stitchers currently employedtypically support 6 dependents with their wage, and usually have had no previous formal employment. A&K also provides opportunities for people with disabilities, who would otherwise be unable to earn a living.

The long term benefits of this job creation should not be understated. Sustained employment allows communities to move out of poverty and build a common ethic of work and aspiration. Using local suppliers where possible, A&K maximises the positive impact on the local economy. It is said that African industry needs to move beyond raw material exports and add value to products locally, which A&K is proud to do.

The UK head office relies largely on charitable donations, but both operations in Kenya and Zambia support themselves financially by producing and selling balls. By supplying some of Africa’s biggest retailers, companies and NGOs, A&K continues to increase the number of people it can employ.


As well as supplying balls to social development organisations, Alive & Kicking runs a variety of its own social outreach programmes and health awareness initiatives. Thousands of balls have been donated to schools, orphanages and youth groups, and health lessons have been provided in both the classroom and on the sports field. The donated balls are made of durable leather that suits African conditions far better than synthetic balls, which are used in the UK.

The majority of donated balls are printed with HIV/AIDS awareness messages, which act as visual aids for coaches and teachers during health education football drills. A&K Zambia recently completed a highly successful HIV/AIDS Awareness Roadshow, which trained hundreds of coaches in health education techniques, offered free HIV/AIDS counselling and testing, and will leave a lasting legacy.

The future

This is an extremely exciting time in Alive & Kicking’s development. Funding has recently been secured to establish a stitching centre in Ghana, which will open later this year. The potential market for locally made balls in West Africa is huge, and A&K believes many jobs can be supported whilst providing kids with education and equipment. With a factory in West Africa, as well as East and Southern Africa, A&K hopes to increase its impact across the continent.

Alive & Kicking has also recently entered the UK market for the first time, with balls currently on sale in John Lewis stores across the country. The balls are being sold on a ‘buy one, donate one’ basis, with a ball being donated in Kenya for every one sold in the UK, and have been supplied by our Nairobi stitching centre. Seeing A&K balls on shelves in the UK is a great achievement, and can only help enhance Africa’s burgeoning reputation as a manufacturing centre and a continent ready to do business. You can buy a ball online directly from John Lewis.

A&K relies on ball sales and charitable funding to support its activities, so think of us for your next fundraising event, visit our website, or get in touch. You can also join us on Facebook and Twitter

Share this story

Leave a Reply



Next Event

Business Fights Poverty Global Goals Summit 2024