Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on September 28, 2023, after arriving from Egypt where Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania were awarded joint hosting rights the 2027 Africa Cup of Nations.

| Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

Pledges that saw ‘Pamoja’ Afcon bid trounce rivals

What you need to know:

  • The three countries have promised to construct nine stadiums
  • The bid document presented by Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania reveals an ambitious plan to upgrade sports, hospitality and travel infrastructure in the countries

Goodwill from the highest levels of political leadership, demonstrated desire to use football to inspire economic development, and ease of travel across the three East African countries are among the things that won the region hosting rights of the 2027 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) tournament, a document seen by the Sunday Nation shows.

After six months of intense lobbying by Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania in a joint plan termed “East Africa Pamoja Bid,” the Confederation of African Football (CAF) on Wednesday handed the three East African countries the hosting rights of the 2027 edition of Africa’s premier national football tournament that is held biennially.

It ended a spirited campaign by Algeria, Senegal and Botswana to host the same competition. Nigeria’s joint bid with Benin also failed.

A look at the 162-page bid document presented by Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania reveals an ambitious plan to significantly upgrade sports, hospitality and travel infrastructure in the three countries, which have a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $241.89 billion, in time for the 2027 Africa Cup of Nations. The three countries have a population of about 170 million people.

The long-term development and post-tournament legacy is to use the championship to catalyse the achievement of the three countries’ development goals as laid out in the Tanzania Development Vision 2050, Kenya Vision 2030, and Uganda Vision 2040, the bid document says.

The document, prepared by top government and football officials from these three countries, paints a picture of the work that will be done to ensure Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Kampala and other chosen cities will be ready to host Africa.

“A bid doesn’t necessarily consist of what you have. Rather, it entails what you plan to do,” explained Federation of Uganda Football Association (FUFA) president Moses Magogo.

In the bid document, the three countries have undertaken to construct and revamp nine stadiums to stage the matches in this 24-nation tournament.

Similarly, 20 training grounds will be prepared as per the standards unveiled by the tournament organisers.

Kenya for instance, has undertaken to not only build the Talanta Stadium in Nairobi, but also renovate three other stadia namely the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, and Nyayo Stadium (both located in Nairobi) and Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Eldoret.

These renovations, which will be overseen by the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF), will include the installation roofs in all the facilities to cover the spectator areas from foul weather.

In addition, the flood light systems will be spruced up to the required standards considering a significant number of matches will be played at night.

Also, an office for CAF officials, four modern dressing rooms, technical benches with 24 seats, a mixed zone, VIP and VVIP hospitality areas, two rooms to host referees, and two other rooms to be used for anti-doping tests will be added in each of the stadiums.

So will media centres that can hold up to 300 journalists at a time that include a working station, charging system and internet. A mixed zone, where journalists can interview the players and coaches before and during matches will also be availed.

Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba is overseeing the project.

He said: “We want to use this opportunity to upgrade our sporting infrastructure so that we match the rest of Africa and the world. I am aware of previous disappointments that bring about the scepiticism and pessimism. Kenyans to some extent are justified to doubt how are we going to do it this time. Is it going to be taken away again? I am assuring you this one is not going anywhere.”

In Tanzania, President Suluhu has promised to build two stadiums in Dodoma and Arusha towns to add to the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium in Dar es Salaam and the Amaan stadium in Zanzibar.

Uganda meanwhile, also have a written guarantee to match Tanzania’s proposal by constructing two stadiums in Hoima and Lira towns respectively to add to the Nelson Mandela Stadium and Namboole Stadium, both located in the capital Kampala.

Kenya further promises to set up training grounds at the Police Sacco Stadium, Ulinzi grounds, Ulinzi Sports Complex, Kasarani Annex, and Absa Sports Club in Nairobi, plus at the 64 stadium, Eldoret showground and Eldoret polytechnic.

As per the requirements for hosting the tournaments, these grounds will be secured by a fence and consist of toilets, changing rooms, hot showers, parking lots, among other amenities.

“The potential hosts are committed to delivering a sustainable and inclusive tournament experience for all participants, attendees and communities in the East African region and beyond. The pledge reflects the hosts’ dedication to promoting sustainability, diversity, and inclusivity and their efforts to create an event that celebrates and unites people from all backgrounds,” the bid states in part.

The governments of these three countries have also pledge to ensure connectivity for those who intend to move from one corner of the region to another to watch games through the ease and availability by award of a single Visa, handed for free, to visitors, upon arrival at any of the country for the duration of the tournament.

Travel links will also be provided via the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Wilson (Nairobi), Moi International Airport (Eldoret), plus the other airports in Kisumu and Malindi to the Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam, Amaan (Zanzibar), Arusha, and Mwanza airports in Tanzania, alongside the Entebbe and Hoima airport, which is still under construction in Uganda.

For those who fancy road drives, President William Ruto’s administration is undertaking to not only rehabilitate a significant chunk of the 180,000 km road network nationally, alongside the railway, but also provide security where necessary.

Currently, dozens of buses leave Nairobi daily to Dar es Salaam and Kampala, while electric buses were recently launched in Nairobi to complement the iconic matatus.
In Dar es Salaam, the government says it will offer fans ‘user-friendly BRT buses with audio and digital visual information including the directions, destination and time-table and free wifi-connection’.

Kenya also shares plans to connect the entire country with free or cheap internet through the rolling out of National and Fibre optic.

The Kenyan government has also positioned the Amboseli National Park, Diani beach, the Maasai Mara National Park, Lamu island, the Aberdares, Lake Nakuru National Park, Kigio Wildlife Conservancy in Naivasha, Samburu and Buffalo Springs National as leisure centres for visitors who wish to unwind.

In the event of emergencies, world class hospitals will be availed to attend to all sorts of ailments, including heart failure.

For this plan to fly, thousands of volunteers will be hired by the three governments on short term contracts to make life easier for visiting teams and tourists.

Authorities in this country will however have to work round the clock to implement what is on paper considering Kenya has on two occasions been handed the hosting rights but failed to make use of them.

Guinea too, suffered the same fate in 2019 when the hosting rights were instead handed to Egypt.

In Cameroon, which hosted the last edition of the competition to a cost of Sh130 billion, the tournament was almost postponed due to delays in construction works.

The new Olembe Sporting Complex in the capital Yaounde was not fully completed until days to the tournament, raising concerns.

The government also struggled to complete the training grounds in Limbe and Buea amid security concerns following the killing of Senator Henry Kamande by thugs days to the event, and consistent protests by activists which left a significant number of them serving jail terms.

Cote d’Ivoire and Morocco will stage the 2023 (pushed to 2024) and 2025 editions of the tournament respectively.