Hosting the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) is a demanding task, especially since its expansion from 16 to 24 teams in 2019, and this proved to be the case for the less economically developed country Guinea.
Guinea handed back its hosting rights for the 2025 event because of inadequate facilities and infrastructure, with the country’s interim president Mamady Doumbouya declaring that it would not be ready to host the event.
Doumbouya met with Confederation of African Football (CAF) president Patrice Motsepe on September 30 to discuss the issues facing Guinea as host, and it subsequently withdrew from the role. Several countries are now showing interest in hosting the 2025 tournament, but what are the implications?
The infrastructure required to host such an event can be demanding. Guinea’s minister of budget announced that an $800-million (490-billion FCFA) investment would be required to build the adequate facilities for AFCON, a significant financial undertaking for a nation with a GDP of $18 billion (11-trillion FCFA) annually. Compare this to a wealthier nation such as 2019 host Egypt, which has an annual GDP of $363 billion (222-trillion FCFA).
There was a similar scenario in Cameroon, which was in line to host the 2019 AFCON, but CAF decided to strip the country of its hosting rights due to slow preparations. CAF requirements for hosting the AFCON indicate that a country needs six stadiums, with two that can hold 40,000 fans, another two that can hold 20,000 fans, and two that can hold at least 15,000 fans.
In addition to infrastructure costs, security is a big concern for those with intentions to host AFCON, with host countries and cities seeing an influx of visitors during the tournament.
Therefore, countries experiencing political turmoil or other security issues may not be suitable for hosting, as was the case with Libya when it withdrew from hosting AFCON in 2017.
Militias battling around the capital of Tripoli for control of the city made the country too unsafe to host a major sporting event. This was also the case in Cameroon, where an escalation in violence due to protests halted infrastructure developments. Instances like these demonstrate why stable security in host countries is highly prioritized by CAF.
The economic boost generated by hosting AFCON usually outweighs the costs and can provide benefits in the long run. Egypt, for example, generated $83 million (51-billion FCFA) in revenue from the 2019 edition. Infrastructure developments in cities such as Alexandria, Suez, and Ismailia benefited residents and tourists alike, also boosting Egypt’s public image and attractiveness to future tourists.
AFCON tournaments are an opportunity for a country to market their nation, with African countries generally having less international appeal to tourists than those in other continents.
The increase in tourists during AFCON comes in parallel with increased spending and hence creates a multiplier effect as money circulates through a nation’s economy and helps provide new jobs. In the long run, the success of AFCON can leave the positive reputation of hosting such a large sporting event and can lead to future events being held, further aiding the creation of new jobs and development of better infrastructure.
Motsepe has announced that 10 African nations are interested in hosting the 2025 AFCON, with Nigeria also reportedly planning a bid to co-host the event with the west African country Benin.
Caf president Patrice Motsepe however looks to have given early hints on the next hosts. “Each region will have a chance to organise a Can (Cup of Nations). We cannot assign the organisation of the Can successively to the same region,” the South African business magnet said.
Inevitably, Nigeria and Benin could be out of the contest considering the fact that Ivory Coast will host the 2023 Afcon finals early next January.
Then, 2012 champions Zambia are looking to host Afcon for the first time and are backed up by recently hosting the 2017 U20 Afcon finals.
South Africa meanwhile hosted Afcon a decade ago, three years after staging the Fifa World Cup.
The other bidders Algeria are currently hosting this African Nations Championship (Chan) finals and are using the tournament as a fresh bargaining chip to affirm their desire to host the 2025 event.
Of course, the prevailing tournament has been dampened by Morocco’s decline to compete despite having won the last two Chan finals’ editions on home soil in 2018 and in Cameroon two years later.
Morocco opted out of the Chan 2022 owing to political disagreements with Algeria after the latter closed its airspace to Moroccan planes and flights.
Morocco has scored major points in its bid to host the 2025 AFCON finals after the country passed strict FIFA prerequisite criteria for the organisation of an expanded new-look FIFA World Cup.
The North African country became the only country to successfully get the greenlight in the strict FIFA prerequisite criteria specifications on sports, hotel, health and infrastructures that make a country eligible to organise the FIFA World Cup under its new format of an increase from 32 to 48 teams.
The two North African nations now face off in quest for the Afcon 2025 but Lekjaa (RMFF President) is confident of winning the rights. Morocco has not hosted Afcon since 1988 while Algeria staged the event in 1990.
Lekjaa’s bid is backed by a recent boom in infrastructure as the country, going by their 2014 plan, now has more than 200 synthetic turf fields, 20 stadiums with natural turf and lighting, five regional training centres and the famous Mohammed VI Football Complex.
“In the 12 regions of Morocco, we have a team piloting regional development, starting with the detection of talent, which must go through the training centers of clubs,” said Lekjaa in an online conversation with kick442.
“That’s why we have made a huge effort to provide clubs with training centers. The regional centers are the same as the national center, but in miniature,” he noted.
Those facilities sit on about 30 hectares and offer state-of-the-art equipment.
And the RMFF hopes that, by staging a quality Fifa Club World Cup, it will have done enough thus far to swing the 2025 AFCON hosting rights into their favour.
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