The CAN, an economic opportunity not to be missed for Côte d’Ivoire

In Ivory Coast, it’s time for final adjustments and final strokes of paint

The CAN, an economic opportunity not to be missed for Côte d’Ivoire

In Ivory Coast, it’s time for final adjustments and final strokes of paint. Two weeks before the start of its African Cup of Nations (CAN) on January 13, the country is hard at work to ensure that the 34th edition of the largest Pan-African sporting competition is “the best in history,” in the words of its president, Alassane Ouattara.

The Ivorian head of state made the success of the event a political priority, to the point of urgently entrusting his new Prime Minister Robert Beugré Mambé, appointed on October 16, with the supervision of the final preparations. The pressure is commensurate with the challenges: a diplomatic showcase and lever of influence, the CAN must also be an engine of growth for the country. “Sport is a polymorphous tool of power, which can in particular be used to attract investors,” recalls Lukas Aubin, specialist in the geopolitics of sport at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (Iris).

Anxious to strengthen its status as a regional economic powerhouse, the country has embarked on large-scale projects. In total, the State has invested more than 500 billion CFA francs (around 760 million euros). Four “ultramodern” stadiums were built in Ebimpé (suburbs of Abidjan), San Pedro (southwest), Yamoussoukro (center) and Korhogo (north). Two others were renovated in Abidjan (south) and Bouaké (center) and 24 training grounds were developed.

Colossal real estate projects

At the same time, the roads connecting the host cities have been rehabilitated to facilitate the movement of teams and supporters. The Abidjan-Yamoussoukro highway was extended to Bouaké and the road linking Abidjan to San Pedro modernized. “All construction sectors have benefited from this CAN. The steelworks, in particular, are running at full capacity,” says a manager of a company in the sector, preferring to remain anonymous.

However, it is in the tourism sector that expectations of economic benefits are strongest. Its development has been the government’s priority since the launch in 2019 of the “Sublime Côte d’Ivoire” program. This national strategy, co-financed by the State (1,500 billion CFA francs) and the private sector (1,700 billion CFA francs) aims to propel the country into the top 5 African destinations and make it an “African leader of business tourism”. In addition to modernized seaside resorts and developed tourist circuits, colossal real estate projects are being built, like the luxurious “Serena village” hotel complex in Abidjan or the “Abidjan Business City” tower, the future epicenter of the Ivorian economy. and regional.

Thanks to the tournament, the national tourism office hopes that the tens of thousands of expected visitors will move away from the stadiums to “discover the charms and attractions of the country”. A mobile application, “Tourist Pass”, has been developed to list sites to visit and facilitate reservations. “All sectors, from hotels to restaurants to transport, are working hard to be ready. All this dynamism has positive repercussions on employment,” observes Ladji Karamoko Ouattara, researcher teaching in international relations.

Not safe from disenchantment

But will the improvement be lasting? Once the tourists have left and the party is over, some fear that the economic machine will run out of steam, or even derail, as was the case in Cameroon, host country of the competition in 2022. With a budget similar to that of the Côte d' Ivory, Yaoundé has not managed to sustain the jobs created by the CAN and to reduce poverty, accentuated by inflation.

Although their country displays a certain economic robustness - growth is estimated at 6.2%, inflation maintained at around 4% for 2023 - the Ivorians are not immune to disenchantment. “In addition to being very difficult to measure, economic capitalization on an event is not systematic,” warns Lukas Aubin. The future of stadiums, which cannot be dismantled, also raises questions. Seeing them fall into disuse, like that of Athens after the 2004 Games, would be a political failure and a cause for social anger.

Ladji Karamoko Ouattara, however, remains optimistic about their future usefulness: “Stadiums are no longer the prerogative of sport. Today there is a strong cultural dynamism in the country. Concerts, shows as well as political or religious meetings may be organized. It is difficult to know if this will be enough to recoup the investments.