What winning 2027 Afcon bid means for East Africa region


Harambee Stars Erick Ouma (left) tackles Senegal's Ismailia Sarr during an Africa Cup of Nations match in Egypt on July 1, 2019. [File, Standard]

Winning the 2027 Africa Cup of Nations bid could be a money spinner and economic boost for the East Africa region.

And with an estimated budget of Sh12 billion, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda are expected to reap big from the prestigious tournament after the Confederation of African Football (Caf) awarded the trio the hosting rights for the continental showpiece in Cairo, Egypt yesterday.

The Gabonese government spent Sh72.2 billion to host the 2017 Afcon edition, while Cameroon spent almost Sh130 billion to stage the same tournament in 2021.

Though the East African nations faced stiff opposition from Egypt, Senegal, Algeria and Botswana’s solo bids, federation officials and their respective governments did everything possible to ensure the tournament comes to the region for the first time in history.

The facial expression of the East African representatives in Cairo after Caf president Patrice Motsepe made the announcement yesterday, summed up the joy of the entire region.

While the Afcon brings with it a lot of excitement and celebration amongst football lovers, it will also have a massive impact on the regional economy. From transport to hotel and tourism sectors, the impact will be huge-before, during and after the tournament.

Although the costs of hosting such a major sporting event are high, the competition could give many economic, social and cultural benefits to the region with over 150 million people in population.

For Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba and Football Kenya Federation (FKF) president Nick Mwendwa, it’s now time for EAC to show the world what they are made of.  

“Hosting the tournament of this magnitude together for me, is a big shot in the arm for integration. But it is also an opportunity for us to send a message that we can do things together successfully,” Namwamba said moments after EAC won the bid yesterday.

“It will be a great opportunity to grow the game in East Africa. For the first time in the history of the Africa Cup of Nations, we will have Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya playing side by side as hosts.”

Mwendwa said: “The work begins now. Winning the bid is the first step, it’s a simple step, it’s complicated, we’ve fought through to win on top of the pile, but it’s not to be celebrated yet. The work begins now.

 “Everybody has to pull together and get the tournament going so that we don’t lose it like we have done before. Let’s bring ‘Pamoja’ home.”

Fan Apathy

With Afcon having experienced fan apathy in recent years, and Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania all assured a ticket in the tournament, the 2017 Afcon will provide Caf with nine home games, all attended to full capacity.

Countries like South Africa, Qatar and the United Kingdom have benefited a lot from hosting major sporting tournaments like the World Cup and Olympics Games.

The economic impact of such a tournament can be huge, not only on East Africa’s global profile, but also its trade and investment. The region will have three teams in the tournament for the second since the 2019 competition in Egypt.

This will be a catalyst for new and improved facilities that will support the development of the game at all levels. By hosting the tournament, the home fans can also push their respective national teams Harambee Stars, Uganda Cranes and Taifa Stars to a medal bracket, for the first time in many years.

Having seen Kenya lose a chance to host both the 1996 Afcon and 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) due to unpreparedness, the region seems not ready to throw away this opportunity once again. Kenya was replaced by South Africa in 1996 and Morocco in 2018.  

And with the support and commitment from all the three Presidents, William Ruto (Kenya), Yoweri Museveni (Uganda) and Samia Suluhu Hassan (Tanzania), and plans to build new stadiums, the region is determined to stage a world-class event.

The sporting industry has already started experiencing some infrastructural changes. Caf requires Afcon hosts to have six stadiums in readiness for the tournament.

While Kenya has already handed Karasani, Nyayo and Kip Keino Stadiums over to Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) for renovations and build Talanta Stadium meeting international standards by 2025, the upgrading of Uganda’s Namboole Stadium will be completed in November with two new venues set to be built in Hoima and Lira.

In Tanzania, Benjamin Mkapa Stadium is being refurbished with new stadiums earmarked in Arusha and Zanzibar in readiness for the 24-nation tournament.

Former Cecafa Secretary General Nicholas Musonye believes the tournament will improve the development of the game in the region.

“This is a good thing for the development of football and sports in general in East Africa. Once teams enjoy playing on modern facilities their performance will improve. Egyptian teams are doing well because of good infrastructure,” said Musonye.

“Economically, our image and tourism will grow. The visitors will spend and the economy will improve. It will have a long term impact.”

Counties like Nairobi and Eldoret which have been earmarked as hosting towns, could raise their profiles economically through tourist attractions and business investment.

Through their spending and injection of money into the country’s economy, the foreigners (players, visiting teams, media and fans) will leave some economic benefits to the locals thus creating a favourable climate for direct foreign investment and tourism growth.

These counties will have a legacy of improved sporting venues, infrastructure as well as transport systems through the construction of more access roads.

More so, the investment will create more job opportunities for the youth, hence boosting the economy. Apart from the locals improving their livelihoods through booming businesses, they will also have an opportunity to watch the best players in the continent.