Ivory Coast is set to host the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), the continent’s most significant sporting event, commencing on January 13 after a 40-year hiatus. The tournament, featuring 24 nations and spanning 52 matches across five cities, promises a month-long showcase of football excellence. The Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Abidjan will host the opening game, symbolizing the transformation Ivory Coast has undergone in preparation for the event.
The country has constructed four new stadiums and renovated two others, revamped connecting roads between cities, upgraded hospitals, and refurbished airports, amounting to a substantial investment of over $1 billion in infrastructure related to the competition. Idriss Diallo, president of the Ivorian Football Federation, emphasizes the potential for a lasting legacy and a renewed global reputation for Ivory Coast as a soccer powerhouse.
With a history of civil wars in the last two decades, Ivory Coast seeks to utilize AFCON as a catalyst for positive change. Despite having won the cup twice before and producing soccer legends like Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure, the country aims to solidify its standing in the global soccer community through new infrastructure. Diallo asserts that basic infrastructure, including training and competition pitches, plays a pivotal role in a nation’s soccer success.
Ivory Coast previously hosted AFCON in 1984, but this time, with expanded participation and heightened expectations, it is considered one of the favorites. Beyond the potential sporting success, hosting AFCON is viewed as an opportunity for Ivory Coast to showcase its soft power on the global stage. The event is expected to draw up to 2 million visitors, providing economic opportunities across various sectors, including transport, small businesses, and the hospitality industry.
Lolo Diby, president of the National Federation of the Hotel Industry in Ivory Coast, anticipates a surge in hotel occupancy, potentially reaching 100%, resulting in a significant economic boost during the tournament. The country’s investments in infrastructure, including airport enhancements and healthcare facilities, are expected to leave a lasting legacy and contribute to the overall development of the nation.
As Ivory Coast eagerly prepares to host AFCON, the impact of the event extends beyond the realm of sports, fostering economic growth, and leaving a positive imprint on the nation’s trajectory.