East Africa holds its breath, as CAF decides on Pamoja Fate

COMMENTARY East Africa holds its breath, as CAF decides on Pamoja Fate

Shafic Kiyaga 10:35 - 27.09.2023

Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania have demonstrated their commitment to upgrading their facilities and meeting CAF standards. The dream of hosting AFCON is within reach, and East Africa collectively holds its breath in anticipation.

Over 170 million East Africans will hold their breath as they await the colour of the smoke from the chimney at Africa’s football governing body, CAF, headquarters in Cairo when the card bearing the Pamoja bid is placed in to burn.

The cooperative effort by Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda to secure the hosting rights for the 2027 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) rests on the outcome of the Confederation of African Football’s (CAF) Executive Committee vote, taking place on Wednesday in Cairo.

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While Morocco is expected to clinch the hosting rights for the 2025 finals, all eyes are on the competitive bidding process for the 2027 edition.

The East Africa Pamoja bid faces stiff competition from Senegal – reportedly the favourites Egypt, Botswana and a joint bid from Nigeria and Benin.

In a surprising twist, Algeria, once a strong contender, withdrew from the race on Tuesday.

Pulse Sports Uganda can confirm that Algeria has officially written to CAF to withdraw their bid for hosting the 2027 Africa Cup of Nations.

The newly-elected Algeria Football Association (FAF) president, Walid Sadi, announced the decision a day after meeting the country’s president Abdelmadjid Tebboune.

According to the communication, FAF said that they’re focusing their efforts on reorganising football in the country.

“The Algerian Football Federation (FAF) officially sent a letter to the Confederation of African Football (CAF) informing it of its decision to withdraw Algeria's candidacy for the organization of the African Cup of Nations 2025 and 2027 editions,” FAF said in a statement.

East Africa's Pamoja bid presents a compelling case, backed by substantial investments and unwavering political support from all three participating nations.

The mandela national stadium under renovation. (Peter Ogwang Twiiter).

The biggest undoing for East Africa is the lack of proper footballing infrastructure in the region, with both Uganda and Kenya lacking a CAF accredited stadium.

Tanzania’s Benjamin Mkapa Stadium is the only stadium ready to host category A continental matches, the calibre of AFCON in the region.

But Pamoja’s biggest opportunity lies in the fact that the tournament has never been held in East Africa, with CAF’s recent strategy involving seeking to choose new countries and territories as it strives to take football to every corner of the continent.

Speaking at the two-day Africa Football Business Summit held in Nairobi, Uganda FA president Moses Magogo stressed that all three nations are fully prepared to host the tournament, should they secure the bid.

FUFA President Moses Magogo addressing a press conference | Photo Credit: FUFA Media

He argued that having three nations collaborate offers distinct advantages over the competition.

"I believe we will still have enough time. The day it is decided that East Africa should host or will host the AFCON, there is still a lot of time; it will be different," Magogo confidently stated.

“Bids are not awarded on actuals because even the other bidders do not have the stadiums, maybe apart from Algeria, which has already hosted a number of these competitions.”

"The other bidders are talking about constructing stadiums; we are saying we have the infrastructure; we only need to stick to timelines," Magogo explained.

The three nations have already embarked on preparations to further show deliberate action towards comforming to being the best hosts for the continent’s biggest football showpiece.

Kenya's Kasarani stadium was deemed unfit to host international matches by CAF | Photo Credit: Standard

In Kenya, the construction of the Talanta Stadium which will hold a capacity of 50,000 seats, is underway. Renovations are also in progress at the Kasarani and Nyayo Stadiums to meet international standards.

Tanzania is finalizing upgrades to the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium to fulfill hosting requirements. The Amani Stadium in Zanzibar is set to be ready by December.

Additional 30,000-seat venues are being developed in Arusha and Dodoma, there are also plans by clubs like Yanga to set up another 25,000 capacity stadium.

Back home, renovation efforts are evident at the Nelson Mandela Stadium in Kampala and while plans are being finalized for the Akii Bua Stadium in Lira.

An aerial view of the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium. (TFF Media).

There is also a proposal for a new stadium in Hoima, with the Nakivubo Stadium also in the final stages of reconstruction.

The essential role of the goodwill from the presidents of the three East African nations in facilitating swift preparations cannot be underscored as well.

Endorsements from the heads of state of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda underscore the bid's political goodwill and unity, symbolized by its Swahili name, "Pamoja," meaning "together."

Uganda President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni specifically held a long discussion with CAF president Patrice Motsepe when he visited the country in July 2022.

CAF President hands over a gift to President, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.
CAF President hands over a gift to President, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni during his visit to State House in July 2022 | photo Credit: FUFA Media

After the meeting, Motsepe urged Uganda to send its bid for the AFCON, stressing that he would be happy to receive Uganda’s bid to host Africa’s biggest football championship.

“We have received so many proposals from many countries wanting to host the AFCON 2027,” Motsepe told a press conference at Serena, Kampala.

“I would be so proud to accept a formal bid from my brother Magogo and the head of state to have AFCON here,” added Motsepe.

His statement made in the presence of Tanzania Football Federation (TFF), and the Council of East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA) President, Wallace Karia set the foundation stone for East Africa’s push for the AFCON.

H.E Yoweri Kagutta Museveni (4th L) and the First Lady Janet Kataha Museveni as they received the Pamoja bid at State House in Entebbe | Photo Credit: Courtesy

The CAF headquarters in 6th October City, on the outskirts of Cairo, is abuzz with anticipation.

To present East Africa’s roses to CAF, FUFA President Magogo will be joined by Kenya Football Federation (FKF) president Nick Mwendwa, and TFF President Karia.

As decision day arrives, each bidding nation will have a 10-minute window to present their case to the CAF Executive Committee.

With their extensive preparations and political backing, the East Africa Pamoja bid is a formidable contender.

The decision made today will not only impact the host nations but also leave a lasting mark on African football history.