Africa and The World Cup

Kudakwashe Manjonjo
Harare, Zimbabwe

Africa and the 2014 World Cup: Are we good enough?

The FIFA World Cup has again, as it does every four years, become the darling of the world. Let’s face it, the South Africa 2010 World Cup was amazing! The World’s eyeballs were squarely on Africa as they vetted if we would be able to host the world’s biggest sporting event; stadium quality, effectiveness of transport systems, and if there would be any electricity blackouts during a game. On all counts we proved them wrong, except on the pitch where we again failed to reach the semi-finals (Ghana-cough cough). In terms of football and anything in the world, it posed the question; do we compete on the world stage with the best?

Five African teams go to the World Cup every four years to complete the list of 32 teams. Compared to the 13 teams Europe gets to send, this seems unfair - FIFA’s logic being that the best football is played in Europe. This is evidenced by the fact that European teams always have representation in the semi-finals. Case in point being the 2014 World cup, out of the four favourites (Brazil, Germany, Spain, Argentina) two are from Europe, not to mention the other football powerhouses such as Italy and Netherlands. African teams on the other hand are led by Ghana and Ivory Coast, teams favoured to do well, but has anyone heard talk of them rationally lifting the World Cup?

And this seems to be the trend in anything in the world. Let’s look at one issue Africans love as much as anyone else; money. Africa has individuals with substantial sums of money, Dangote (Nigeria) and Motsepe (South Africa). But are they the richest in the world? For that we have to cross the Atlantic to the Buffets and Gates and the Helu family.

Let’s look at economic powerhouses in the world. Nigeria recently took over from South Africa as the biggest economy in Africa; Nigeria’s economy standing at 456 billion, 26th in the world. California, a single state in USA has a GDP of $2 trillion, which would rank it as the 9th biggest economy if it was a state.

What of political power? How do we stand as African nations? The lack of an African country with a seat on the UN Security Council has limited Africa’s political muscle when tussling with the rest of the world. In line with neo-colonialism theory of Nkrumah, the irony is that Africa forgoes its political power to more powerful states and world institutions such as the IMF and World Bank.

Shakespeare once made the point that, “one must be cruel in order to be kind.” As difficult as it is playing the devil’s advocate, the idea is not to show Africa’s impotence, but rather to ignite a visual, produce a realisation within us that Africa doesn’t have to accept the status quo of being the world’s problem child. The world stage must also include African dancers, globalisation does not have to be a synonym for Americanisation. Africa is not a sleeping giant. It is a community filled with sleeping giants whose time has come to arise. Will ‘you’ rise? When all of us accept our position in this time of the world as having a responsibility to Africa, that is when Africa will also be world class. And only then will we be able to see an African nation lifting the World Cup.