AfricaAthletes assisting underdeveloped countries with human rights and health issues is not something new; neither is athletes helping publicize and grow a sport internationally. However, both are currently happening with two popular and well-known professional athletes from the United States who are in the prime of their careers. Green Bay Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. are currently using their status as high-profile athletes to reach out to global audiences in effort to advocate for very different issues in Africa.

Rodgers is currently advocating for a group called Raise Hope for Congo (website), which has the goal of aiming “to build a permanent and diverse constituency of activists who will advocate for human rights of all Congolese citizens and work towards ending the ongoing conflict in eastern Congo.”

[1] The “ongoing conflict” includes violations of human rights, violence against women, and usage of child soldiers, all of which have resulted in a mind-numbing 5.4 million deaths since 1996.[2]

On November 11, 2013, Rodgers made his support for the organization known at a Raise Hope for Congo protest in Madison, WI. Rodgers concentrated his speech on the conflict minerals mined from the Congo that are being sold to support warlords. Many of these conflict minerals can be found in electronics, including our smart phones. Rodgers has teamed up with many celebrities in a campaign to help spread knowledge and raise awareness about the atrocities occurring in the Congo with the goal of protesting companies’ usage of such conflict minerals in their products.[3]

On a much lighter note, Mayweather arrived in South Africa on January 15th for a weeklong tour around the country, on the heels of being named by the South African government as the world’s greatest athlete.[4] On his visit, South Africa’s Ministry of Sport and Recreation has arranged for Mayweather to help revive the sport of boxing around the country. Mayweather will go on a four-city tour, including stops in Bloemfontein and East London, which are “regarded as the hotbed of South African boxing.”

Although these are two very different stories, both illustrate athletes’ willingness to help with a variety of causes in Africa, the benefits of which are twofold: the continent gains exposure and, presumably, reaps the benefits of the athletes’ efforts, and the athletes get a platform via which to promote their sports and personal brands.

[1] http://www.raisehopeforcongo.org/content/about/about-the-campaign[2] http://www.raisehopeforcongo.org/content/crisis[3] The Frank-Dodd Act already requires this for U.S. Companies.[4] http://bigstory.ap.org/article/mayweather-jr-visit-south-africa

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