Friday, July 12, 2024

Hosting Afcon 2027 finals …, What’s in it for Botswana?

Botswana’s decision to bid to host the 2027 Afcon finals on her own continues to divide opinions within the country’s general populace.

For some, the argument is that the costs of hosting may outweigh the benefits expected. With the country’s economy struggling, they believe the monies would be put to better use elsewhere. “Instead of putting P62 million into making a bid book, the money would be better spent upgrading hospitals or buying much needed medicine,” one commentator argued.

Those in the sport circles believe that instead of committing millions towards hosting, the money should rather be channeled into financing local sport. They believe that if the money is committed there, there would be growth in local sport.

According to the Minister of Sports Tumiso Rakgare, “For a Ministry representing an ambitious government that understands the power of sport and how it can positively impact our people and the economy, giving up was never an option after Namibia pulled out.”

But what really will be the benefits if Botswana were to win the bid to host Afcon 2027 finals? If Botswana wins the bid, she will have to undertake some infrastructural developments to meet the requirements of hosting.

Such will include building new stadiums, upgrading other stadia, upgrading hospitals, roads as well as the country’s ports of entries and airports. Elsewhere, hotels will also have to be upgraded to meet certain star ratings.

When Cameroon hosted the last Afcon finals in 2022, the country is estimated to have spent US$885 million. The monies were used in building and upgrading infrastructure. These included roads, hospitals, hotels, airports and new stadiums. CAF officials were accommodated at a newly built government funded five-star hotel, the Krystal Palace. Almost all of the hotels where teams stayed were upgraded to meet requisite star ratings.

These infrastructural developments are what Batswana should also expect to see if the country wins the bid to host Afcon finals. With these developments, many locals will find much needed jobs to help them with needed income.

“While we understand we will have to put in a few billion pulas towards sport infrastructural development, that will form only a fraction of the overall infrastructure costs.”

“The other infrastructure is what the country already needs. All that Afcon will do is to fast-track delivery of such. And we all know what the key benefits of infrastructure development is, and that is employment creation,” the minister said.

As Botswana seeks to position herself as the host capital of mega events as well as a tourism destination of choice, hosting Afcon will put the country on the road to such. For the month that Botswana will be hosting, the eyes of the entire continent and the world will be focused here.

Botswana will, through worldwide media channels, enjoy unparalleled attention. According to CAF, the last Afcon was watched in over 150 countries across the world. Aside from Africa, channels such as beIN Sport broadcast it in its channels in Middle East, the Asia-Pacific region and North America, including the United States, and as far afield as Cambodia and Laos.

ESPN beamed the tournament across South and Central America and the Caribbean, the BBC and BSkyB beamed it in the United Kingdom, beIN Sports in France, Discovery in Italy, SportDigital in Germany by SportDigital while Nordic regions watched on NENT’s sport channels and Eastern Europe on SportKlub. With such a reach, Botswana will for a whole month be able to market herself and her tourism across the world.

The other main beneficiaries will be the small businesses, the transport sector as well as individual house owners. For a month, they will be able to make income though selling their wares, transporting visitors or renting out their homes to those coming into the country. This will represent a direct trickle effect of hosting income for the small businesses. In Cameroon, the direct expenditure from supporters and tourists was estimated to have been more than US$200 million (+/-P2.691 billion).

For sport, the legacy will also be unparalleled. Botswana will boast of world class facilities for use by local sports while also enabling the country to host major sporting events. With the incoming teams also in need of grounds for training, there will also be some upgrades on the existing facilities. These will also be used by teams after the games are past.

With Botswana seeking to make an impact, there is also a likelihood to see a concerted effort to ensure our players are competitive. This will include efforts to make the league competitive enough to produce quality players for the national teams.

The biggest question however is; where the money to host will come from? the answer lies with budget reprioritization. “Consultations continue within the Government, especially with the Ministry of Finance, to determine areas of budget reprioritization to accommodate the bid and the hosting of the tournament should we become successful,” Rakgare explained.

In the words of Rakgare, “Afcon 2027 will showcase the best of Botswana while promoting national integration and will lead to cultural, social and sporting diversity. It will result in economic growth and social development and leave a lasting legacy for our people and country including an empowered youth.”

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