Thursday, August 18, 2022

Africa urged to grow sports tourism by investing in infrastructure

The campaign to rebrand Africa and its infrastructure to accommodate world class tournaments is still in full swing. The issue cropped up again for the umpteenth time when Africa gathered in Morocco recently for the African Football Confederation (CAF) awards, .

On the backdrop of the awards, CAF President Patrice Motsepe took the moment to address the issue of poor infrastructure. This has been the Achilles heel in the development of football in the continent.

In early May last year, CAF published a damning report on the state of sports infrastructure in Africa. The report came after the continental football governing body undertook an audit of the sport infrastructure in the continent. The report of the audit revealed that 22 African countries do not have stadiums which meet international standards.

Addressing the gathering, Motsepe stated that it is a well-known fact that Africa produces some of the best players.  Because of this, CAF wants to ensure Africa can compete with the best of the best across the world.

“We encourage the 54 countries to work closely with their governments. There are still too many African nations whose stadiums and infrastructures are not to the level of CAF even FIFA,” he explained. “And part of our focus now is that no African national team should play its games in foreign nations just because their stadiums are not up to standard,” he said.

In Botswana, only the Obed Itani Chilume Sports Complex  meets standards, while the National Stadium in Gaborone and the Lobatse Sports Complex have failed. Commenting on the matter, sport analyst City Keagakwa welcomed Motsepe’s comments on the issue.He said talk around poor infrastructure ‘is well-known and discussions around it are long overdue.’

Keagakwa said better infrastructure will allow African countries to host, saying ‘this is all about sport tourism which CAF is trying to make African countries aware of.’

“I am not so sure what vision 2036 entails but it does touch on sport tourism. As we speak it is something that is currently happening across the World. We see the best athletes competing in foreign countries and thus not only promoting the sport but growing tourism as well,” he said. “Right now, we have English Premier League teams currently having their pre-season in foreign lands like the United States of America. By so doing, they help sport tourism grow. This can also be done in Africa.”

 Keagakwa said the continent has shown it can build world class infrastructure. He however said the biggest problem is failure to maintain them.

“In Botswana right now, we are currently failing to maintain our stadiums. The challenge is for Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) to up their maintenance works. They all have been the missing link so far in our country. We have Lobatse and the National stadium which are below CAF standards, Masunga which was left to dilapidated beyond measure, Serowe which is a health hazard and Molepolole which is undergoing refurbishment,” he said. Keagakwa said this goes back to political will, whether governments see sport tourism and good infrastructure as an investment and are willing to put money in it. “This is the biggest question facing African countries; do they want to do all these or are they only interested in playing? But then again if they are to do it, they need to understand the importance of why we have to invest in sport infrastructure,” he said.

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