On September 27, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) awarded hosting rights for the 36th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2027 to Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania under the East Africa joint Pamoja Bid. The successful bid was received with delight and enthusiasm among Ugandans and the East African community in general as this will be the first time the region will host the most prestigious football tournament on the continent since its inception in 1957.
However, to pull off this historic event, Members of Parliament have implored the government to use this opportunity to embark on enhancing the quality of sports facilities and general infrastructural development to avoid possible international embarrassment. This was emphasised during the Tuesday, October 3 plenary sitting where the House debated a motion to pay tribute to the government for the successful Pamoja bid.
“Hosting AFCON comes with immense benefits; it will bring infrastructural development like roads, sports facilities and we have been looking forward to this. Therefore, I encourage the government to build stadia across the region,” said the mover of the motion Santa Alum (UPC, Oyam Woman Representative).
Ssolo Kayemba (NUP, Bukomansimbi South County) expressed anxiety about Uganda’s readiness to prepare and host AFCON 2027 as a result of corruption and deficiency in sports facilities. “In 2019, Cameroon won the bid but due to its being unready, it was taken to Egypt. When I look around, especially our sports facilities, I get anxious because if the status quo remains, then the same predicament that happened in Cameroon can happen here as well,” Kayemba said.
Butaleja District Woman Representative Florence Nebanda called for regional balance in terms of infrastructure for inclusive participation and sports growth. “I implore the Ministry of Education and Sports to consider regional balancing because it will boost the economy and inspire sports fraternity in terms of training and participation,” Nebanda said.
To Elijah Mushemeza (INDEP, Sheema County South), hosting AFCON is an opportunity for Uganda and East Africa to reap big through tourism and trade. “When a country is given an opportunity to host AFCON, it is motivated and forced to improve its infrastructure. Secondly, it is a chance to improve our economy because statistically, tourism has high returns on investment.”
Omoro County Member of Parliament Andrew Oulanyah Ojok called for inclusiveness to ensure that all Ugandans benefit from the economic activities associated with hosting such an international sports event. “Let this not be in the hands of a few individuals, but all Ugandans. The government needs to provide a sufficient roadmap on how we can guide the populace to tap into this opportunity,” Oulanyah said.
Ntungamo District Woman Representative Josyline Kamateneti said Uganda needs to use the opportunity to make deliberate efforts to allocate enough funds to the Ministry of Health to equip and rehabilitate regional hospitals to avoid the embarrassment of airlifting people to other countries in case of emergencies.
The Leader of the Opposition Mathias Mpugga said hosting AFCON is a chance to market Uganda and unite the citizens.
“It is upon government to realise that it is a chance to market Uganda; stop abusing the rights of the people, speak to your opponents, and sort out the politics that divides the nation. Otherwise, football as a universal sport should be able to unite and draw us closer to each other so that we are not the paraya of the region in terms of accommodating and tolerating one another,” he said.
Moses Magogo (NRM, Budiope East County), who is also the President of the Federation of Uganda Football Association (FUFA), said the excitement to host AFCON comes along with immense responsibility to execute the event especially as far as sports facilities are concerned. “Construction of stadia must be managed under a turnkey project where you get one provider like the one for the indoor stadium in Lugogo. This same provider (Summa) did the stadium in Senegal in 17months and all they need is sovereign guarantee,” he said.
According to Magogo, this arrangement will eliminate challenges of delayed projects, laborious procurement processes and corruption which could hamper Uganda’s readiness to host AFCON. The State Minister for Sports Peter Ogwang assured MPs of the government’s commitment to the realisation and delivery of AFCON 2027 by prioritising sports infrastructure. “Pamoja will not fail and we will make sure it succeed. We have a plan to construct regional stadia and all we have to do is to walk the talk; give us money when we come [to Parliament]. We also need to have a Sports Fund and also consider taxing these betting companies to raise money to fund sports facilities,” Ogwang said.
Deputy Speaker, Thomas Tayebwa who presided over the sitting said he committed on behalf of the country while defending the Pamoja bid in Cairo, that finances and infrastructure will be readily available. “We shall work closely with the Ministry of Education and Sports to ensure that money is provided; some countries have taken the opportunity [to host] and ended up failing and we do not want to embarrass other countries in the region,” he said.
On top of having at least 2 accredited stadia, Uganda is expected to pay US$30 million as hosting fees to CAF before February 2025.