The 2027 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) has been awarded to the East African trio of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, marking a historic moment as this is the first time the region will host the prestigious tournament. This decision by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) comes despite competitive bids from nations like Egypt, Senegal, Algeria, and Botswana. The jubilation was evident on the faces of the East African delegates when CAF president Patrice Motsepe made the announcement.
This collaborative hosting comes with an estimated budget of Sh12 billion. To put this in context, Gabon spent Sh72.2 billion for the 2017 Afcon while Cameroon allocated almost Sh130 billion in 2021. The financial commitment is considerable, but the expected economic, social, and cultural dividends for the East African community, which boasts a population exceeding 150 million, are even more substantial.
From the tourism, hospitality, and transport sectors to local businesses, the ripple effect of hosting Afcon will be felt throughout the region, not just during the tournament, but also in the lead-up and aftermath. Countries like South Africa, Qatar, and the UK have previously reaped significant economic benefits from hosting major sporting events, and East Africa aims to emulate this success.
Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba and Football Kenya Federation president Nick Mwendwa both emphasized the importance of this milestone. Namwamba sees it as a potent symbol of regional integration, while Mwendwa stresses the urgency of the task ahead, urging unity and hard work to ensure the success of the event.
One significant advantage for the 2027 Afcon is that with Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania all participating, there will be nine home games, potentially drawing large audiences and filling stadiums. This is a crucial factor, especially given the recent waning interest in Afcon games.
Hosting the event is also an impetus for infrastructure development. CAF requires six stadiums to be ready for Afcon. Kenya has already initiated renovations on three stadiums and plans to build a new one by 2025. Uganda is upgrading Namboole Stadium and has plans for two new venues in Hoima and Lira. In Tanzania, Benjamin Mkapa Stadium is being revamped, with new stadiums in the pipeline for Arusha and Zanzibar.
Nicholas Musonye, former Cecafa Secretary-General, sees the infrastructural improvements as pivotal for the region’s football. He notes that top-performing Egyptian teams have benefitted from superior infrastructure, and believes the same can be true for East African teams. Beyond sports, he anticipates a boost in the region’s tourism, image, and economy.
Cities such as Nairobi and Eldoret, designated as host cities, are expected to see an economic surge due to increased tourism and potential business investments. The inflow of foreigners, including players, teams, media, and fans, will bolster the local economy, offering opportunities for direct foreign investments and a potential surge in tourism. This, coupled with enhanced sporting venues and improved transport infrastructure, is set to provide a lasting legacy for the region, including job opportunities for the youth and a chance for locals to witness the continent’s finest football talent.