AFCON 2027: What can come out of a Bots-Nam bid?

AFCON 2027: WHAT CAN COME OUT OF A BOTS-NAM BID?
by Confidence Musariri Fri, 29 Apr 2022.

I arrived in Lubango, Angola in January 2010 by midnight having connected through Oshikango and Santa Clara. I vividly remember that road trip where at some point there were no roads, just land-mine ravaged contours, due to a lengthy civil war.

That night, the cheap hotel I had booked had no electricity. Right in the middle of the African Cup of Nations, there was load shedding issues. In choosing Angola as an Afcon host, CAF had stated that it wanted to encourage the country to move towards peace after the Angolan Civil War. Namibia, Senegal, Botswana, Mozambique, Zimbabwe all had seen their bids rejected in favour of Angola. Remember that was around the first ever FIFA World Cup in Africa, 2010. Everyone wanted a piece of everything football. So, hosting Afcon in January 2010, six months before an African World Cup was like sitting next to the bride family at a wedding—food-wise.

Yet here we were in Angola, no electricity in Lubango, days later, rebels attacked a Togolese national team bus in Cabinda. But all that did not affect the tournament an inch. Angola hosted a great Afcon in 2010.

Even in 2022 at the Afcon tournament in Cameron, nine people died during one of the matches. Football still rules.

Alas, the same week that nine people died in Cameroon in January 2022, Namibians were busy condemning the country’s proposed joint-bid with Botswana to host the 2027 Afcon.  The main argument was that our stadiums are not up to scratch. I wish they had seen Angolan stadiums in 2006 before CAF awarded the bid. True, CAF banned Namibia from using its facilities during the World Cup qualifiers. But it also did that to 20 other countries out of the 54 CAF members, among them Mali, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Liberia, Central Africa, Malawi, and Burkina Faso. Only 40 countries out of 54 CAF members were inspected as they were the only ones to compete in the 2nd round of the qualifiers.  Out of those 40, half were asked to rehabilitate their stadiums in May 2021.

Keep in mind, between March 2020 and May 2021 there was no football or sporting activity in Africa and much of the world due to Covid-19 lockdowns. It makes sense that ahead of the June 2021 World Cup qualifiers, CAF had to inspect the state of facilities. And it makes sense that the facilities were in bad state, for a soldier’s wife does not shave until he returns from the war-zone.

I write to motivate this submission for Namibia to host Afcon 2027. If our joint-bid with Botswana wins, which we will, Namibia can host three of the six venues/groups, where Windhoek, the coast, the North or the East would have a venue.

Namibia currently has one cricket stadium, a 5000-seater one, but we are co-hosting the 2027 ICC World Cup with Zimbabwe and South Africa. If Independence Stadium and Hage Geingob stadiums can host cricket world cup, they surely can host Afcon. Stadium case closed.

The biggest mistake we are making is we are looking at what we can offer, CAF does not look at that. Imagine, Gabon (2017) and Equatorial Guinea (2015) have hosted the Afcon. Try to find Gabon on the map, or name a single football club from those countries. For CAF, the secret is what benefits will come to football and your country hosting such a tournament. Not what can you offer.

Firstly, our towns/regions get infrastructural boosts with revamping of new social amenities as many tourists are expected to visit. In Angola 2010, they had a new city (New Luanda) being built in the shadows of the old shanty town, and their main stadium was nestled between the two Luandas. What a spectacle! In South Africa 2010, the rest is history.

The host country’s economy also benefits from the influx of people coming to patronize the tournaments from hospitality, catering and entertainment industries, etc. If you recall Cameroon was stripped of the hosting rights for the Afcon 2019 because of delays with preparations as well as security concerns. The delays were more of lack of cooperation with CAF.

Egypt was awarded the rights and the Pharaohs revenue from the Afcon reached R1.2 billion according to then Confederation of African Football (CAF) President, Ahmad Ahmad. It exceeded the one held in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

Of course, there’s no denying that hosting a large-scale sporting event comes at a cost. There are years of planning and investment to ensure that the necessary infrastructural work gets done. This kind of financial commitment is daunting for any nation. But Namibia and Botswana share a lot of commons in our economies. We won’t feel it. Besides, CAF President Patrice Motsepe, has strong family roots in Botswana and we, in Namibia gave him Mamelodi Sundowns’ most prized asset in Peter Shalulile.

I believe more in the social spin offs of Afcon for Namibia than the economic spin offs. The country is angry.  People are just angry. Three things can deliver us, soccer, sex or Jesus Christ. Four if you include Tafel Lager. But people are angry. Football is a pacifier. I consider the Zebra fans as second to Nigeria’s legion of fans when it comes to being colourful, in song and dance, even though their team does not go far. For them it’s the spirit of football, that drives the Batswanas crazy. Perhaps they will help us with our anger. In Namibia, people are too angry. Check online.

Hosting major sports events often helps to increase the positive profile of the host nation. CAF made the defining decision to move the Afcon to odd numbered years for many reasons. One of those may have included optimizing TV rights acquisition purchases as in odd years. That’s a topic for another day.

Another major revenue stream of the Afcon for CAF’s the jostle for brand association and equity. In the 2013 edition, Pepsi, Adidas, Standard Bank, Samsung and Puma all continued with existing contracts of partnership running through 2016 (Samsung’s deal ran until 2015). Imagine, MTC, Tafel Lager, FNB, those new oil guys, all coming in the mix. Total is already in there.

The host country receives 20% of all revenues garnered by the African Union from the tournament, including tickets, television returns, advertisements on the pitch, and all yields the federation gains.

On the other hand, the host country will bear all costs related to the participating teams, including the internal transfers of the team, the referees, the president of the CAF, its Executive Committee and the Secretary-General.

I can’t wait to see the touristic promotion of Namibia and the subsequent benefit from the development of the sports infrastructure, if our bid succeeds. What it means is Namibia and Botswana will witness a surge in tourism revenues, hotels occupations, trade, industry, and of course the unemployment rate would decline during this period owing to seasonal jobs and crafts.

Like in SA 2010, most sectors will witness resurgence in buying and selling processes, so hosting Afcon 2027 will be a good part of post-Covid reboot, especially across stagnant sectors.

I still have artifacts I bought on the streets in Beijing 08 Olympics, Egypt 2006 Afcon, Ghana 08, Angola 2010 and SA2010. The handicrafts sector will witness a significant increase in demand and recovery as the first beneficiary sector, followed by other sectors of interest to visitors such as food and beverage as well as tourist destinations. Imagine our fellow brothers and sister from North Africa coming to the home of Namibia’s finest lager Tafel Lager!. And the spin-offs of them going back with our lagers hidden in their kits.

We have seen it during COSAFA the handicrafts sector produces football-inspired products such as the flags of countries, whistles, vuvuzelas, fireworks, colourful hats, etc. There are other revenues related to security companies and private guards. This is a good investment case for the establishment of companies, whether private companies, share- holders or investors, companies specialized in organizing events and exhibitions, passenger transport companies, and hotel services, and even security companies and hygiene centres.

I was not the Afcon 2021 in Cameroon but there are a lot of issues always when the country is hosting this tournament. The rich European media will downplay the tournament, seek everything negative to show that Africa cannot hosts its own, especially non-sports media. What is important from my experience is understanding that hosting the tournament is key in the framework of a country’s position in the realm of sports. Hopefully by 2027, MboMasilingi will still be around. We will thrive at Olympics and other track and field events, then host the cricket world cup and Afcon, most likely have another world boxing champion. All we need is to speak in one voice, back the bid and defend it like its all we have.

There is a lot at stake – both on and off the pitch – for Namibia and Botswana to host a successful 2027. It needs our backing. By now someone would have designed a draft logo to sell it to the organizers already.

It’s Do-Able!