Malawi is one of the territories to benefit from free-to-air broadcasts, and research will be undertaken there to understand the impact of the coverage and inform the IPC's approach for Paris 2024 ©Getty Images

The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will be broadcast free-to-air to a record 49 sub-Saharan territories in Africa, reaching over 250 million viewers as part of the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) AT2030 Para Sport Against Stigma project.

AT2030 is a £40 million ($54.9 million/€46.9 million) UK Aid-funded initiative, and seeks to test ‘what works’ to provide improved access to assistive technology around the world for the 900 million people that need it.

The programme’s Para Sport Against Stigma project is expected to run until the autumn of 2024, and seeks to challenge disability stigma and discrimination across Africa and ensure human rights for people with disabilities.

There are 1.2 billion people with disabilities across the world who are often unable to reach their full potential, with disability stigma limiting their full participation in society.

Global Disability Innovation (GDI) Hub IPC, Loughborough University and the University of Malawi, Chancellor College, collaborate to manage the Para Sport Against Stigma initiative, supported by global law company Hogan Lovells, and the project seeks to implement and study Para sport as a vehicle to challenge disability stigma across Africa.

GDI Hub chief executive Vicki Austin said "this project shows the power of partnership," and would "create positive change for disabled people for many years to come."

Viewers in the 49 territories will be able to watch the Opening and Closing Ceremonies on August 24 and September 5 respectively live for the first time, and 52-minute highlight packages centred on African Para athletes will be broadcast in English, French and Portuguese.

The French-based sports marketing company TV Media Sport, which specialises in events in the African continent, will produce this content, and has helped secure sub-Saharan broadcasters for the IPC.

TV Media Sport President Hédi Hamel said the firm was "delighted" to be involved with the project, which would ensure "the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will receive unprecedented free exposure in Africa."

Free-to-air coverage of the Paralympics will be broadcast in Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Eswatini (Ex Swaziland), Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome, Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

This represents an increase on December’s announcement on free-to-air coverage in Africa, which featured 24 of these countries.

As part of this development, detailed research on the impact of the coverage will take place in Malawi, which the IPC says will inform its approach for Paris 2024.

Loughborough University’s lead investigator on the project, Professor Jo Tacchi said: "In the next weeks, we’ll be examining broadcast production, audience perceptions and community engagement around the broadcasts in Malawian communities with the aim of informing planning for Paris 2024. 

"The project is part of Loughborough University’s commitment to developing Para sport and promoting inclusion for people with disabilities in the UK and around the world."

Andrew Parsons, the President of the IPC, said today’s announcement represents an important landmark for Para sport in Africa.

"One of the strategic goals of the IPC is to grow the global audience for the Paralympics," he said.

"Increasing broadcast availability is central to that. 

"I am thrilled that since we announced this initiative back in December last year, we have more than doubled the number of African broadcasters taking the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games from 24 to 49.

IPC President Andrew Parsons said the coverage
IPC President Andrew Parsons said the coverage "will help normalise and challenge the stigma that too often is attached to disability" ©Getty Images

“For many reasons these are our most important Games ever.

"One of them is that for millions of people in Africa this will be the first time they will have seen Paralympic sport.

"Watching our athletes battle for medals and raise the bar in terms of elite Para sport will help normalise and challenge the stigma that too often is attached to disability."

Ghana’s Para powerlifter at Tokyo 2020 Emmanuel Nii Tettey Oku is also excited at what the news will mean for Para sport.

"During the Olympics I saw some of my least athletic friends post and share highlights and commentary about the Games," Oku said.

"This was not only about the sport but also the different discussions surrounding the Games like trending topics on Simone Biles.

"I thought it was interesting how trending topics and visibility can cause people to talk about things that they would otherwise overlook.

"So, for me broadcasting the Games and its highlights is an opportunity to make Para sport trend enough for people to talk about it and this will help fight disability stigma here in Ghana and Africa. 

"I think broadcasting the Games and coverage can help raise awareness of Para Sport and help Para athletes to tell our stories and showcase our achievements."

The Tokyo 2020 Paralympics is scheduled to take place from August 24 to September 5, with 22 sports on the programme.