- Abidjan gets a facelift with just over 60 days to go before the African Cup of Nations
- The 5th bridge or Alassane Ouattara bridge will be a real attraction
- The African Cup of Nations will be an opportunity for foreigners to experience Ivorian hospitality
With two months to go until the 34th edition of the African Cup of Nations (CAN), scheduled to be held in Côte d’Ivoire from 11 January to 13 February 2023, the country is moving to the rhythm of the continent’s biggest football event.
Côte d’Ivoire, which is hosting the prestigious Africa Cup of Nations for the second time in its history, has dubbed the event “AKWABA”, meaning “The Africa Cup of Nations of hospitality”, as can be seen on the COCAN Cote D’Ivoire 2023 website.
Our reporter Neilley Claude EBESSA, on an advanced mission in Côte d’Ivoire, reports on preparations for the CAN in the capital Abidjan.
“Here in Abidjan, the city is covered in AKWABA! From the terminal to the boarding bridge, via the screening checkpoints, Abidjan’s Félix Houphouët-Boigny international airport is decked out in “AKWABA” posters, referring to the CAN Total Energies 2023. You have to leave the airport completely to see the “Akwaba” statue standing majestically at the roundabout serving as the entrance to and exit from Abidjan’s Félix Houphouët-Boigny International Airport, wishing arrivals a pleasant stay and bidding farewell to departing passengers.”
Intrigued by this curiosity our reporter found out through local taxi driver, her guide that AKWABA is a local expression used for the AFCON is “a term originating from the Agni and Baoulé ethnic groups of Côte d’Ivoire and Twi from neighbouring Ghana, all part of the large AKAN group. This expression is commonly used to welcome and express hospitality to visitors”, he explains.
Journeying across Abidjan is a feast for the eyes. From the hotel infrastructure to the state of the roads, nothing is left to chance. Traffic is flowing smoothly, and the lanes and motorways are draped with the Ivorian flag and posters of the mascot, also christened “Akwaba”. The official image of the CAF Total Energies African Cup of Nations in Côte d’Ivoire, it represents the Ivorian identity and is inspired by the elephant, the country’s true emblem. Alongside the mascot is the image of ‘POKOU’, the official ball of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations. We are told that the name is a tribute to Laurent Pokou, the former star striker of the Ivorian national team, who died on 13 November 2016. He was twice top scorer at the African Cup of Nations in 1968 and 1970.
The road infrastructure is equally impressive. Abidjan alone has 5 bridges: the Cocody road bridge or the Alassane Ouattara bridge, inaugurated on 12 August 2023; the Félix-Houphouët-Boigny bridge, which crosses the Ébrié lagoon and pays tribute to Côte d’Ivoire’s first president. It links Abidjan North to Abidjan South. The Général-de-Gaulle bridge has 11 spans, the first two of which are connected to the banks. This bridge allows pedestrian traffic on both sides, as well as vehicles with 2×3 lanes. The Henri-Konan-Bédié bridge is a toll motorway bridge linking the communes of Cocody and Marcory in Abidjan. It symbolises Côte d’Ivoire’s economic revival. The Philippe-Yacé bridge, formerly known as the Pont de Jacqueville, is a road bridge linking the Songon bank in the north to the N’dyéni bank in the south, crossing the Ébrié lagoon.
Abidjan also has a reputation for putting on a good show. In the streets we pass, we recognise the rhythms of “Couper décaler”, a musical style peculiar to the Ivorians. But in the car we hear the melody of “Akwaba”, this time the musical piece chosen for the great mass of continental football. We recognise the voices of Ivorian group Magic System, Nigerian artist Yemi Alade and Egyptian rapper Mohamed Ramadan. What is certain is that this song, which is a tribute to hospitality, will set fire to the sporting arenas and erect the banner of African pride in the four corners of the globe, but especially here in Côte D’Ivoire.
The culinary aspect is not to be outdone. From posh restaurants to tournedos, they all focus on local dishes: Attiéké fish or meat, Kedjenou chicken, Pacali with okra sauce, fish with light sauce, braised chicken, Sokossoko beef or sautéed beef, or garba. The aroma of these dishes not only makes your mouth water, but transports you straight to the land of Côte d’Ivoire. The macquis and nightclubs are not to be outdone. They are stepping up their provision for the competition.
At the end of our visit to Abidjan, we believe that the world of African football will be feasting on the round ball, while diving into the heart of this grandiose cultural festival, where each team aspires to raise the colours of its nation high. The celebration that is about to bewitch the land of the Elephants promises to be grandiose and memorable, and the authorities and COCAN are working hand in hand to ensure that no aspect of the preparations is left to chance!.
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