By Andrew Bonani Kamanga
It is now official! The United Bid (United States, Mexico and Canada) has triumphed over Morocco for the rights to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
This is indeed a great loss for Africa in terms of hosting global mega events. There is no doubt that in projected revenues for 2026 FIFA World Cup, the United Bid was more appealing to FIFA members than the Morocco bid. Morocco’s fight to host the FIFA World Cup was doomed when some countries on the continent did not support their quest.
Indeed, it is the democratic right of every FIFA member association to vote for whoever they so wish to host and the United Bid got a lot of support from many members of the FIFA Confederations of Europe, Africa, Asia Caribbean, Oceania, Central and South America. The fact that the United Bid got 134 votes to Morocco’s 65 reflects an overwhelming crushing of the attempt to bring the FIFA World Cup back to Africa.
Africa faces a huge uphill battle in the various bids to host world championships in various sport codes as well as mega events such as the Summer Olympic Games. The anticipated revenues to be generated from events held in Africa is lower than other parts of the world due to economic underdevelopment on the continent. Africa is the least developed continent in the world and that is not going to change overnight. The fact that Africa commands less than 5% of international trade is not something that can be rectified in the next 10 or 20 years. It is something that maybe will change in the next 100 to 200 years, depending on the development trajectory of the continent.
Does this mean that Africa should kiss goodbye to hosting of global mega sporting events? No, it means that Africa must not wallow in self-pity expecting handouts from other parts of the world.
When it comes to major events, the hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa was indeed a historical achievement and a source of pride, not just for the host country, South Africa, but for the continent as a whole. The 2010 FIFA World Cup announced Africa‘s arrival on the world stage in terms of the major leagues of sport business. Having proven beyond reasonable doubt that given an opportunity, Africa can host fabulous events, the onus is now upon other African states to put their best feet forward and bid to host other single sport or major multi-sport events.
South Africa’s bids to host the Olympic Games in 2004 in Cape Town and the 2006 FIFA World Cup did not succeed as they lost out to Athens, Greece and Germany respectively. However, this did not dampen their spirits as the country eventually won the bid for the 2010 FIFA Cup and as they say, the rest is history. South Africa has indicated that it could bid again to host the Summer Olympic Games in the near future.
Just like in economics, trade and business, Africa has to compete even if it has to play “catch up” on many fronts and aspects of life. Sport administrators can help in promoting and entrenching this competitive spirit in Africa. The days of begging and waiting for aid and hand-outs is over. Yes, countries and regions of the world have become more and more interconnected and interdependent. It is no sin to ask for assistance when it is needed but one must always seek to control their own destiny as well as work towards achieving greater autonomy and independence.
Africa and especially the beautiful Southern African sub-region with its relative peace, stability and economic prosperity should not be spectators while other countries and regions are jostling to host major games and events. Africa’s competitors are not stupid in fighting to host various single and multi-sport major events. Major single and multi-sport events are catalysts for the development of economies, creation of infrastructure and jobs in the host countries. In addition, these events are a means of international branding and promotion of foreign direct investment (FDI) and on-going tourism traffic to the host countries.
Sport is no longer fun and games. It is a big multi-billion dollar business capable of transforming Southern Africa if the region can get its fair share of the cake in terms of hosting events. However, there is need for deliberate planning to put up credible business cases for the hosting of major events. Southern African sports confederations must work to raise the standards of event organization within and amongst member states.
International benchmarking is also very important as it will help to inform the bids that countries put together. African sports administrators should not get excited about traveling to other parts of the world without working to bring the world to Africa. It is sheer madness! The era of business as usual is over. Sports leaders should not let premier events go by without taking deliberate steps to host some of them within the region.
Southern African countries such as Angola, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, individually, can, for example, comfortably host world championships or other prestigious events if they plan ahead and work diligently towards accomplishing relevant assignments.