As the 2010 soccer World Cup in South Africa kicks of Friday 11th May, the question of what South Africa and the rest of the continent actually gains from hosting this mega-event is raised more frequently. In terms of the social and economic impact, Africa is already benefitting greatly from the event with the creation of more jobs – some temporary, of course – building infrastructures and a tourism boost. We examine the expected progress that Africa is set to benefit from.
Last month, The Economist cited a report from the accountant firm Grant Thornton saying that the World Cup is estimated to give South Africa an extra 0.5% growth. Around 373,000 foreigners are expected to visit South Africa during the tournament (down from 485,000 visitors expected in 2007) each spending $4000 on average.
In all, about $12.4 billion is estimated to be injected into South Africa, most of the profits generated before this year. Tourists are expected to account for 16% of the final total and the rest is to come from the South African government’s spending on infrastructure.
The construction and improvement of stadiums for the World Cup and the improvement of the infrastructure in South Africa has created thousands of short-term jobs.
The country is also expected to benefit from the construction of hotels, set to accommodate massive amounts of tourists who will be visiting the country this month, bringing in revenue the likes of which South Africa has probably never seen.
Cities that have previously hosted global events are still benefiting from the prestige and recognition attained from being on the world stage. Although there have been concerns in the past year as to whether or not South Africa’s infrastructure could handle such a giant event, the nation’s tourism chiefs say Johannesburg’s Soccer City stadium, the biggest stadium in the country is ready and roads and transportation systems are now improved.
According to a TradeInvest South Africa report, it is estimated the World Cup will bring in over 20 billion additional rands and create over 100,000 jobs. The country is also building a sophisticated rapid rail system called the Gautrain that will run from Pretoria to Johannesburg to Tahmbo International Airport, with stops in between. On the official website for the system, the main objective listed is ‘enhancing and supporting economic growth in the Gauteng Province and generating employment.’
Historian Peter Alegi says in Sports Illustrated: ‘The world cup is an opportunity to show that South Africa is a modern democracy, technologically advanced, business friendly and also an attractive tourist destination.’
Football, the black man’s sport, has long been the poor relation, as money and sponsorship have been ploughed into rugby and cricket. Matthew Booth, one of South Africa’s most popular footballer’s recalls 25 years ago, under apartheid, when his school would not allow him to play football; it was a blacks-only game. ‘Nothing’s changed. It’s an elitist race issue. In our country, if you’re black you play football at school and support football. If you’re white you play rugby or cricket at school and support one of the two,’ he told The Times newspaper.
He added: ‘The World Cup may bring everyone together for a month but it’s not enough. More needs to be done to help sport cross the racial divide.’
He proposed government backing for measures to ensure that white schools play football and black schools play rugby, so that ‘sport should become a unifying and not a dividing factor in our lives here’.
For Booth and his fellow players, the World Cup will be the defining moment of their lives. ‘We all hope the World Cup will spark a new generation of white football stars, so that in years to come black and white can play in the same league,’ he said. ‘That would be real progress and a true legacy of a historic sporting event.’
South Africa has large shoes to fill after the success of the 2006 World Cup in Germany. If all goes well, South Africa can help convince FIFA and the world that the World Cup, and other events, can and should take place in Africa.
Some have questioned the choice of South Africa as the host of the most watched and loved sporting event in the world, but the choice sends a message: Africa is no longer the forgotten continent; A great 2010 World Cup can open doors for all of Africa, bringing much needed infrastructure, tourism, and money to a continent that needs it more than any other.