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Monday, July 14, 2014

East Africa can host FIFA World Cup in 2030

The 20th FIFA World, like its predecessors, has left a lasting impression on nations and individuals. The humiliation of the host nation Brazil, Luis Suarez tucking into Italian Chiellini and Germany’s well deserved victory. 

The energy and emotions nations mobilize when they bid to host the tournament is phenomenal. To host the 19th edition of the FIFA World Cup in 2010, South Africa harnessed the magic and star power of Nelson Mandela. This implies there is tremendous value and prestige in hosting soccer’s biggest carnival.

But more importantly, hosting football’s biggest competition pays huge economic dividends. Frequently used estimates have shown that the previous three FIFA World Cup tournaments generated positive economic impact to the tune of $9 billion (Japan and South Korea in 2002), $ 12 billion (Germany in 2006) and $ 5 billion (South Africa in 2010).

Forecasters indicated that this year’s tournament would add about $30 billion to Brazil’s GDP between 2010 and 2014, generating nearly 4 million new jobs and raising an additional $ 8 billion in new tax revenues. The soccer bonanza was expected to bring an additional 3.7 million tourists to Brazil, each expected to spend circa $2,500.
Moreover, the tournament was expected to cause a massive surge in consumer confidence, which leads inevitably to stronger consumer spending. This is especially critical given that in 2011, for the first time in history, Latin America’s middle class outnumbered the regions poor. Perhaps the economic emergence of Latin America in the last decade and the power its middle class is demonstrated by the fact that the average attendance at the 2014 FIFA World Cup matches was the second highest of all time.

A couple of weeks I observed that there was a palpable sense of national frustration and worrying sagging of confidence among Kenyans. We have lost our swagger. We are petrified. Moments of national pride and bravado are hard to come by. A majority of our fellow citizens are just going through the motions in a rather burdensome and dreary existence. We are living in tough and trying times.

But I dared to say that our best days are ahead. Our best days are ahead because this is the land of the unbowed Nobel laureate. Our best days are ahead because a young woman dared to believe that no matter where she was born her dreams are valid. And more recently, a man who started as shelf stocker and shop assistant in Nakuru believes we can host the FIFA World Cup in 2030.

Atul Shah’s dream to bring the World Cup tournament to East Africa in 2030 is both audacious and patriotic. Audacious because most so-called realists think it is outlandish. It is patriotic because Nakumatt Holdings’ boss has refused to give up on this country. He believes that by 2030, we will be a globally competitive prosperous and industrialized middle-income country. Similar national aspirations are shared across the East African Community.

Here is why Mr. Shah’s dream is realizable and merits serious consideration. East Africa’s sustained growth has been made by increased flows of direct foreign investment, improved macroeconomic stability and increased investment in infrastructure and education. The $600 million SEACOM private investment in high-capacity fiber-optic cable now connects southern and eastern Africa to the global Internet backbone, expanding the continent’s connectivity.

Furthermore, East Africa can turn its extractive resource boom into a veritable engine for inclusive economic growth, expanding public investment on social programs while leveraging smart private capital to drive infrastructure growth, agricultural development and the expansion of manufacturing. 

According to the African Development Bank, a strong army of middle income Africans is on the march. They will be on hand to spend money and fill the tournament venues. A study by McKinsey Global Institute in 2012 estimated that 48 percent of Africa’s population will have secondary or tertiary education by 2020. This could drive economic transformation causing more than 50 percent faster growth in jobs in agriculture, manufacturing, retail and hospitality. Moreover, expansion in sectors such as communication, finance, transportation and construction are expected to remain strong.

We must dare to dream. Hosting the FIFA World Cup in East Africa in 2030 is an attainable vision, which has the potential to galvanize the EAC region in unity of purpose; investing collectively in expanding vital regional infrastructure, urban renewal, conservation of biodiversity, tourism, security and education. 

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