Namibia is among the sub-Saharan African countries set for free-to-air coverage of next year's Paralympics ©Getty Images

More than 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa will have free-to-air coverage of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics - a move International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Andrew Parsons claims can be a "turning point" in the region.

The IPC has agreed to waive its rights fee in order to maximise exposure in an area that has largely aired only limited coverage of the Games.

Working on behalf of the IPC, TV Media Sport has secured broadcasters in 24 countries with an estimated reach of more than 150 million people.

Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cape Verde, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eswatini, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, the Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Togo, and Uganda have been confirmed for free-to-air coverage so far.

The broadcasts will be funded by the IPC and UK Aid.

For the first time across the region, the Opening and Closing Ceremonies will be free-to-air and broadcast live on August 24 and September 5 in 2021.

The IPC has also announced a 52-minute daily Games highlight show of African-centred content, which will be available in English, French and Portuguese.

It is hoped the initiative will be a catalyst for commercial partners becoming involved in broadcasting Paris 2024 to sub-Saharan Africa.

"The IPC is very excited about the prospect of more people than ever before watching the Paralympic Games in sub-Saharan Africa," said Parsons.

"Through sport the IPC wants to normalise and challenge the stigma attached to disability.

"One of the best ways to achieve this is through people watching the Paralympics and seeing first-hand what persons with disabilities can do.

"Going free-to-air across so many territories will allow us to tell the compelling stories and athletic achievements of Para athletes and raise awareness of the Paralympic Movement.

"We are confident that we will engage new audiences and make a bigger impact than any previous Paralympics.

"I truly believe that this could be a turning point for the region: the awareness that Tokyo 2020 will create could lead to more media, people and sponsors getting involved in Para sports, which in turn will create new opportunities for people with disabilities. We are going to show that change can start with sport."

The move is also a key element of the four-year Para Sport Against Stigma project which aims to overcome discrimination against persons with disabilities in Africa.

Launched by the IPC, Loughborough University, and Chancellor College at the University of Malawi, Para Sport Against Stigma is part of AT2030, a programme funded by UK Aid and led by the Global Disability Innovation Hub.

Dr Emma Pullen, lecturer in sport management at Loughborough University, said Para-sport media visibility was "important in helping change attitudes toward disability" and can be a "powerful platform" for raising awareness.

"Our aim is work closely with local partners and broadcasters in Sub-Saharan Africa to improve the reach and access of the broadcast as well as localising the content to include narratives of local Para athletes," Pullen said.

"It's the start of a journey that will hopefully see the sustained roll out of Para sport across many parts of the Global South."

Hédi Hamel, President of TV Media Sport, added: "We are delighted to partner with the IPC on this important project to create awareness around Para sport all over the African continent.

"TVMS is committed to introduce in all TV homes the values of inclusion through the performances and stories of African Para athletes at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games."