ghanas ambition for african games legacy despite economic challenges

Ghana’s Ambition for African Games Legacy Despite Economic Challenges

The 13th African Games are currently underway in Ghana, but the significant cost of hosting the event during a period of economic turmoil has attracted scrutiny.

The multi-sport event has incurred an expenditure of nearly $250 million (£195.2 million), leading opposition figures to criticize it as a “misplaced priority” for a heavily indebted nation grappling with high inflation rates and the repercussions of a regional cost-of-living crisis.

Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, an opposition MP, expressed his concerns, stating, “I really don’t think we have our priorities right as a nation. This government has a penchant for big spending on things that really are not a priority.”

Nonetheless, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo remains optimistic that hosting the Games will have a lasting impact beyond the country’s economic difficulties. During the opening ceremony in Accra, he stated, “We can be proud of the massive sporting infrastructure we have put in place for the Games, which would be a huge legacy for our country.”

Originally scheduled for August of the previous year, the Games were rescheduled to this month due to a dispute over marketing rights that delayed the completion of facilities.

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However, the event, which features over 5,000 athletes and officials from across the continent competing in 29 disciplines, experienced a less-than-auspicious start. The first three days of competition were marred by four power outages, including during Ghana’s opening game of the women’s football event and at the athletes’ village. Additionally, the first beach volleyball match faced a 35-minute delay due to missing nets, and Ghana’s cycling team had to purchase new bikes, according to reports.

The Games serve as qualifiers for the 2024 Olympics in only eight sports: athletics, badminton, cycling, swimming, table tennis, tennis, triathlon, and wrestling. Consequently, several prominent African athletes have chosen not to participate. Furthermore, there was limited publicity for the Games in Accra prior to the opening ceremony.

The economic anxiety prevailing in Ghana has contributed to a lack of enthusiasm among the population. With inflation surpassing 40% last year (currently around 23%), many Ghanaians prioritize economic stability and basic needs over sporting events.

Hosting the Games could have implications during the upcoming general elections in December. The incumbent President Akufo-Addo is ineligible to run for another term, and his deputy Mahamudu Bawumia, who supervised the Games’ plans, is the candidate for the ruling New Patriotic Party. Former President John Mahama will lead the National Democratic Congress at the polls.

The heavy investment in infrastructure, including the Borteyman Sports Complex ($145 million), the University of Ghana Stadium ($34 million), and the renovation of the athletes’ village ($16 million), has come at a high cost. The event’s operation requires an additional $48 million. Lord Mensah, an economics professor at the University of Ghana, warns that hosting the Games may not have a positive impact on the country’s struggling economy, even though there may be short-term benefits in the hospitality sector.

Ghana’s aim, following its investment in hosting the African Games, is to become a regional sports hub in West Africa, emulating Morocco’s success. The country intends to attract local and international federations for training camps and potentially host other sporting events. The upgraded Borteyman Sports Complex, with its world-certified facilities, including tennis and badminton courts, an aquatics venue, and an indoor multi-purpose hall, has the potential to drive sports tourism and talent development in Ghana.

The main challenge Ghana will face after the Games is maintaining these newly developed facilities. Previous major events hosted by the country have suffered from a lack of maintenance. To truly benefit Ghanaian sports, proper upkeep of the infrastructure will be essential.