As Botswana bids to co-host the 2027 Africa Cup of Nations with Namibia, fingers are crossed that for once, the games will leave a lasting legacy from staging big events.
The country has successfully hosted big sporting events in the past ten years. In 2014, the country hosted the 2nd African Youth Games here in Gaborone. Three years later in 2017, the country hosted the Netball World Youth Cup (NWYC), the first World Netball world competition to be held in Africa.
While both events left some intangible legacy in the country, the impact was not visible when it comes to infrastructure development. Compared with other countries which host mega events, this would seem an anomaly.
When South Africa hosted the World Cup in 2010, the country experienced a massive boost in infrastructure. Stadiums were either built or upgraded. The roads infrastructure and transport systems improved.
Recently when Malawi hosted the African Union Sports Council (AUSC) region 5, athletes competed in two newly built facilities. These are the Griffin Saenda Indoor Sports Complex as well as the Aquatic Sports Complex. There were also improvements and upgrades to other facilities such as the CIVO Stadium and CIVO community Sports Centre.
Unlike the above, when Botswana hosted the 2014 African Youth Games, the only noticeable upgrade was the installation of a heating system at the University of Botswana swimming pools. The other legacy was the acquisition of sporting equipment for some sports federations.
While the powers that be point to the upgrades at the UB aquatic pool as a legacy, the same view is not shared by those within the local swimming fraternity. Their reasoning is that the pool, with all its heating systems, is not readily available for Botswana Swimming Association (BSA) to use. It therefore, in their view, cannot be classified as a legacy.
As for the NWYC 2017, there was no tangible legacy. While Botswana Netball Association (BONA) had hoped for a construction of an indoor netball facility at its BONA Courts, this failed to materialize. The association could not even gain or acquire a sprung floor from hosting the games. The only ‘legacy’ was in terms of human resource development.
Asked what could be the cause for Botswana’s failure to have infrastructural legacy from hosting, one administrator says the country’s existing infrastructure may be a curse. The administrator says since the games Botswana hosted required no building or upgrade of infrastructure, the government could not be convinced to build such.
“In all the big sporting events which we hosted, there was no need to develop new infrastructure. That is why we bid and won to host them. If there were any need for infrastructural development, we would have likely not hosted them,” the administrator says.
The administrator says the country will only time the country will have tangible legacy from hosting big sporting events will be when it hosts events which require better facilities than it already has. “If Botswana and Namibia win the bid to host Afcon 2027, only then will we see tangible legacy in infrastructural development.”
To some extent, Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) chief executive officer (CEO) Tuelo Serufho concurs with the above reasoning. He says for the games previously hosted here, there was no need to upgrade or build new facilities as the country’s facilities were deemed good enough. “Unlike many other countries in the continent, our disadvantage when hosting is that we already have good infrastructure.”
He however says this will change if Botswana hosts mega events like Afcon which require a certain level of facilities above what the country already has. “The difference with Afcon is that it needs certain standards of infrastructure. Just as an example, one of the requisites is that the country should have at least one 40 000 capacity stadium, which we do not have. In this case, we will be forced to build or renovate one stadium to meet those requirements,” the BNOC CEO explains.
With Afcon poised to be the biggest sporting event ever hosted in Botswana if it does win the bid, there is a chance its legacy will be felt. This may include improvements in stadia, roads infrastructure and transportation system, airports and many others.
Looking into the future, Serufho says the only way Botswana can expect to have continuous legacy in hosting if it has long term hosting plans. In such a scenario, he says infrastructural development will be included in the National Development Plans (NDP) with a view of hosting a mega sporting event a decade or so in the future.
Another option, he says, is if the country becomes ambitious and bids to host events of greater magnitude which require world class facilities. In this instance, the country will be compelled to develop world class infrastructure to accommodate its ambitions.