- The East Africa joint bid, commonly called the “Pamoja AFCON Bid,” has won the hosting rights for the 2027 tournament as Morocco takes the rights for the 2025 showpiece.
- The rights to host AFCON 2027 offer a clear opportunity for the governments of the three host nations to deliver on their promises for better stadiums.
- The nations will hope to capitalise on the high tourist traffic in 2027 to earn even more from the AFCON-motivated visits.
Pamoja AFCON Bid prevails
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has selected Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda to host the 2027 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) over bids from Morocco, Algeria, Senegal, Botswana, and Egypt. The East Africa joint bid, commonly called the “Pamoja AFCON Bid,” has won the hosting rights for the 2027 tournament as Morocco takes the rights for the 2025 showpiece.
CAF president Patrice Motsepe announced the news on Wednesday morning, 27 September, shortly after the body held an executive committee meeting in its headquarters in Cairo, Egypt. Recommendations from several nations boosted the East Africa Pamoja AFCON Bid. In a move that will elate East African sports enthusiasts, the CAF Executive Committee chose the Pamoja Afcon Bid.
Tanzania and Uganda felt the East African region was ripe to host the 2027 AFCON tournament. The duo submitted a joint EAC Pamoja bid together with Kenya. Though the three East African nations faced stiff competition from Egypt, Algeria, and Botswana’s solo bids, federation officials and their respective governments did everything possible to ensure the prestigious tournament came to the region for the first time.
The collective efforts remained evident since last December when the Kenyan government approved a proposal to back a bid for the prestigious biennial tournament. Kenya previously lost a chance to host the 1996 AFCON and the 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) due to infrastructure inadequacies and unpreparedness.
Moreover, the political differences between Morocco and Algeria and challenges with their respective bids owing to severed diplomatic ties since 2021 meant that East Africa’s Pamoja AFCON Bid gained traction.
A chance to scale up sports infrastructure
Poor sports infrastructure represents one of the significant hurdles for the three East African nations to host a successful 2027 AFCON. The state of the region’s sports infrastructure has remained a matter of concern, often forcing national teams to play vital continental and international matches in foreign territories.
The state of East Africa’s sports infrastructure has long captured the attention of various stakeholders. For instance, Haile Gebrselassie, the legendary Ethiopian long-distance athlete, had previously urged the East African nations to focus on improving the region’s sports infrastructure. According to Gebrselassie, better stadiums and sports facilities could boost sports tourism and revenue in the EAC.
As previously noted, Kenya lost major continental events owing to infrastructural deficiencies. Moreover, the two main Kenyan stadiums, the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani and Nyayo Stadium, were declared unfit to host FIFA-approved international matches. This happened after the CAF omitted the two grounds from the list of pre-approved stadiums for the 2022/23 interclub football campaign.
The three nations, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, have previously promised to invest in sports infrastructure development, but these promises have yet to see the light of day. But now, the rights to host AFCON 2027 offer a clear opportunity for the three host nations’ governments to deliver belatedly on their promises for better stadiums.
The support and political goodwill from the three heads of state, Presidents William Ruto (Kenya), Samia Suluhu Hassan (Tanzania), and Yoweri Kaguta Museveni (Uganda) will prove significant. The respective sports ministries have pointed towards upgrading the existing stadiums and constructing new ones in the warm-up to the biennial football tournament.
Upgrade and construction of sports facilities
Kenya plans to upgrade the Kasarani, Nyayo, and Kipkeino stadiums to meet international standards. Plans are also underway for the construction of Talanta Stadium. The football 50,000-seater stadium will be constructed at Jamuhuri Sports Grounds in Nairobi.
The Youth Affairs, Sports and the Arts Cabinet Secretary (CS), Ababu Namwamba, has already indicated that the ministry has already handed over the four stadiums project to the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) as a joint endeavour with its East African neighbors in the Pamoja AFCON Bid. According to CS Ababu, the ministry has set 2025 the deadline to complete the four facilities.
In Uganda, the renovation of Mandela National Stadium Namboole Stadium will be complete by November 30, 2023. Like in Kenya, the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) engineering brigade is leading the charge for the stadium upgrade to FIFA standards. Moreover, Uganda’s sports ministry has plans to build two new stadiums in Lira and Hoima.
In Tanzania, the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium is under refurbishment. According to Abel Shirima, the committee chairman tasked to oversee renovation works at the stadium, the works are progressing well. The renovation works on the facility should be completed by October 5, 2023, the date CAF officials set up for their last inspection.
The Tanzanian government has worked tirelessly to prepare the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium for the Pamoja AFCON Bid 2027 bid final visit and the inaugural Africa Football League tournament starting mid-October. Moreover, the government has earmarked the construction of new stadiums in Zanzibar and Arusha in further readiness for the 24-nation continental showpiece.
The Pamoja AFCON Bid boosts sports tourism
Research has shown that hosting a major tournament like AFCON positively impacts the hosts’ tourism sector. This phenomenon is known as sports tourism. Twenty-four (24) countries take part in AFCON games. As such, people travel in numbers as they accompany their respective teams to the host nation.
Moreover, media employees, sponsorship companies, football fans, and foreign tourists flock to the host nations for the tournament, thus boosting local tourism. Tourism, especially wildlife, represents a major foreign exchange earner for Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.
The nations hope to capitalise on the high tourist traffic in 2027 to earn even more from the AFCON-motivated visits. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) observed that hosting the 2019 AFCON boosted Egypt’s tourism sector several-fold. According to the IMF, The tournament in Egypt generated up to $83 million in revenue.
Kenyan Member of Parliament Caleb Amisi said hosting AFCON in 2027 is “a good thing” for East Africa.
“Many foreigners will come to Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda in 2027 for the games. This will boost the countries’ foreign exchange reserves, create an avenue for local companies to advertise themselves to the world, and promote the three nations’ international profile,” Amisi observed.
In a February 2023 study by the University of Johannesburg, South Africa, analysing the tourism impact of Cameroon’s 2022 AFCON hosting bid, the authors Siyabulela Nyikana and Tembi Tichaawa observed: “Lasting memories of the local destinations may trigger repeat visitation and thus grow local tourism numbers.”
A golden opportunity
East African nations have long remained spectators on the continental football stage. Sudan is the only exception, hosting the maiden edition of AFCON in 1957 and again in 1970. Moreover, Ethiopia held the torch in 1962, 1968, and 1976.
Therefore, the Pamoja AFCON Bid in 2027 is more than another tournament for the East African community. It represents a golden opportunity – a chance to showcase their capabilities, to shed past disappointments, and to lay the foundation for a brighter, more competitive future in international football.