Ivory Coast's $1 billion gamble: Hosting AFCON 2023 spurs economic hopes amid financial concerns

Posted : 12 January 2024

Ivory Coast, set to host the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, is hoping that the tournament will contribute to its remarkable recovery since the end of the civil war in 2011. The government acknowledges investing at least $1 billion in preparations, including the construction of four new stadiums and the renovation of two existing ones.


The extensive efforts also cover the upgrade of airports, roads, hospitals, and hotels in five host cities, namely Abidjan, Bouake, Korhogo, San Pedro, and the capital Yamoussoukro. This substantial investment, fueled in part by a $3.5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), raises concerns about sustainability, given Ivory Coast's ranking as the 138th richest nation globally, out of 190, according to the IMF.


Despite the economic challenges, Ivory Coast has experienced an average annual growth of 8% since President Alassane Ouattara, a former IMF employee, assumed power in 2010. Some experts, like Ivorian economics professor Prao Yao Seraphin, emphasize the need for careful consideration to ensure that the loans benefit the country.


Seraphin emphasizes the importance of creating events to generate revenue from the stadiums and maintain the infrastructure to avoid the risk of turning them into "white elephants," a term referring to costly projects whose financial upkeep outweighs their usefulness.


The concern about potential financial burdens contrasts with the optimistic view of Ivory Coast's politicians, who dismiss the notion that the country, named after its large elephant population, might face challenges akin to the plight of "white elephants."


The successful management of the post-tournament legacy, including strategies to generate ongoing revenue from the infrastructure, will play a crucial role in determining the lasting impact of the investment on Ivory Coast's development.


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