With just over a week to go, millions of people around the world will be watching their team in South Africa competing for the ultimate prize in football, the World Cup. But for many, particularly in Africa, this world cup has taken on greater significance. When South Africa was chosen to host the 2010 World Cup, it was hailed as a chance to 'give something back' to Africa. However, will the biggest event on Earth benefit some of the planet's poorest people?
The event could provide many benefits to local communities through local trade. However, according to an article in The Independent, informal traders who are a crucial part of African economy have been banned from around the 10 stadiums, reducing their chances to gain from the increased tourism. Creating more jobs for local people is also in question. The future of a project to set up public bus transport is in doubt because the government is cautious about standing up to South Africa's powerful minibus-taxi industry.
There are also question marks over Fifa's internet ticketing system that has left most of the continent unable to buy seats. Fifa kept ticket sales online until 15 April when poor sales forced them to open ticketing booths in the host country. Even though there will be a record six African teams in the finals; South Africa, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Nigeria and Algeria, only 11,000 African fans outside South Africa have purchased tickets. Should there have been more effort to include the fans of these countries?
As well as low ticket sales, especially in the northern hemisphere, tourism visitor figures for the World Cup have been revised down to 200,000 – about the same number of people that visit South Africa during an average summer season from November to February. Local airlines and hotels have cut prices for the coming month, and local businesses are worried about the lack of financial benefit the event will bring.
However, there is some good news. Fifa president Sepp Blatter, in an interview, said that the event is about "giving back to Africa what the continent has given world football through its players.” During a press conference, the organisation pointed to the "centres for hope" - 20 football academies that it will build after the cup. These could provide opportunities to African youth to develop themselves not only in football, but also through education. Examples of how successful these academies can be are The Craig Bellamy Foundation set to open this September in Sierra Leone, and the Right to Dream Academy in Ghana.
Elsewhere, organisations such as Oxfam are trying to use this world Cup and football to connect people around the world. Their new campaign calls on fans to upload a video of their tricks to the website, www.dontdropaid.org. The campaign calls on governments not to drop the ball on overseas aid, which helps to pay for kids to go to school and for medicines and bed-nets that save the lives of millions of people who would otherwise die from HIV or malaria.
Charles Bambara, a former player in the Burkina Faso premier league who works for Oxfam in West Africa, said: “Across the continent, from Algeria to Zambia, football brings a massive ray of hope to people’s lives. We want to tap into all of that energy to say: don’t drop the ball, don’t lose sight of the goal, which is to end poverty and make life better for the world’s poorest people.”
However, despite the event being marred by controversy, one thing is for sure, this event will unite Africans from all over the continent during the World Cup. Voice of America spoke to Ben Owusu from the Ghanaian community in South Africa. He says that Africans will be uniting behind an entire continent;
“We all are coming together this time around to support that particular African team that is playing that day. To come together is the only way we are going to come close to winning the Cup. Whatever African team does well, it will be a victory for the whole of Africa. This is Africa’s World Cup.”
“Brazil, Italy, England and Germany and all those other fancy teams must realize when they land here in South Africa that they are not only playing single African countries," he said. "They must know that they are playing against an entire continent, with its population of one billion firmly behind it … the Cup should remain in Africa.”
This is going to be a very exciting month for the players and fans from the four West African nations playing in the tournament. We will update you with information on the Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria teams over the next week for the build up to the big event. For more information on West Africa, or to discover how you can be a part of the World Cup by visiting the continent yourself, visit West Africa Discovery.