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Dr. Samia Suluhu Hassan’s stadium Should Promote Economic Growth in Arusha

AFCON
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The Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2027, to be held in Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda, may not necessarily bring soccer glory to our footballers and ourselves, given the low quality of our footballing skills, but that should not in any way eclipse the impact on the economy in the Arusha region. This article explores opportunities and challenges that will grip the infrastructural requirements as we prepare to co-host the continental soccer tournament that marks our arrival on the global stage.

Since independence, we have never imagined that one day we shall co-host the AFCON tournament due to our economic malnutrition, but now we are beginning to flex our economic muscles because we are doing much better economically. It is heartening to see a substantial amount of money has been set aside to grace this auspicious occasion, which we never imagined even a few years ago.

The colossal sums to the tune of Tshs 286 billion signal our commitment to shout to everybody that we have arrived and we are here to stay. Our co-hosting of the AFCON will benefit the nation in many ways, and we shall chronicle some of them to justify the expenditure.

Naysayers will cling to outdated ideas that the money could have been spent elsewhere to tackle poverty, but what they fail to grasp is that this investment will generate jobs, advertise our country and inspire our footballers to take soccer not as a passion but as a solemn profession where they can adequately earn a living.

Few may be aware that part of the challenges to developing tourism in Arusha is the cost of advertising, and this continental tournament will offer opportunities to promote tourism like no other. Soccer enthusiasts across the world will swarm to Arusha, and before they even watch the first match, they will visit our tourist destinations and get a first-hand experience of what Tanzania can offer.

READ RELATED: Taifa Stars Deserve Better: Still Doubting TFF, Politics Shouldn’t Determine AFCON Triumph.

Mountain climbers will have the unenviable task of picking between the Mountains of Kilimanjaro and Meru where to test their stamina and resilience. Mount Kilimanjaro will offer three to five days of the arduous task of climbing it, while Mountain Meru will offer a day or so of treacherous routes to scale its highest point. Either way, some football fans across the world will have a rare opportunity to have a unique experience in Mountain climbing in our own backyard.

A proposed Dr Samia Suluhu Hassan stadium is expected to be built in Arusha, Tanzania.

For those who love big game sights, nothing will rival the marvellous Serengeti plains combined with the spectacular landscaping of Ngorongoro Crater. Oldupai Gorge, believed to be the cradle of humankind, should imprint indelible marks about the source of human origins and civilization. The interaction with indigenous communities such as the Ma and the Hadzabe should be breathtaking and demand an annual pilgrimage.

Hoteliers and tour operators should feel honoured as overbooking will be their major concern. Praying for tourists to turn up in huge numbers to have them more than they can possibly contemplate should open avenues for more employment. Cooks, cleaners, drivers, mechanics, and tour guides, just to mention a few, will be in huge demand. I am beginning to see employers grappling with skilled labour vacancies to cater to their new work demands.

Where tourism-related jobs will outshine all but one area that will generate plenty of jobs will be in the construction industry. The construction of the mega stadium will create temporary and permanent jobs for all facets of the erection of the stadium. With a continental undertaking of this magnitude rarely conceivable, I can visualise the stadium acting as a catalyst to encourage other construction activities to complement it.

For example, I can envision hotels being constructed to accommodate new service demand. The bed capacity in Arusha is still inadequate, and that should be a wake-up call for hotel investors to do something about it. “If you build it, they will come…” is a script misquote from “Field of Dreams.”

The actual quote is: “If you build it, he will come” (not they). This is a line from the 1989 Kevin Costner. It means that if you create something that everybody needs/wants, they will come to you rather than you having to go to them. Kevin Costner’s blockbuster movie should mean something for this investment.

Also, read As Taifa Stars Have Returned Home, How Are We Reflecting on Meaningful Reforms for the Upcoming Competitions?

Perhaps, the biggest advantage is what the minister for sports said the modern stadium will have capacity to accommodate 30,000 people and that it will have offices, halls, museum and other facilities.“We want it to be running on daily basis and not during matches only,” the minister intoned.

The stadium will not be a relic or a white elephant as most stadiums turned out to be. This one will be a major business concern after the last ball is kicked in the AFCON tournament earn in it. No sooner had the curtain been closed and everybody was going home than the next day, Dr Samia Suluhu Hassan’s stadium would throng and thrive with business activities. From offices to let to entertainment halls will be full of human activities generating substantial employment and subsistence living for many.

The stadium will be like an ATM, and many will find temporary and permanent jobs sustaining themselves and their dependents which should give as another reason to sanction the project.

The fight against poverty has taken a new meaning encompassing conventional and non conventional means. While it is true that the traditional areas may feel a little bit snubbed, the gospel truth needs no reminder that poverty is an individual challenge. Those who will directly or remotely benefit from this project will be uprooted from the shackles of poverty, and will pull others as well out of the coils of poverty. Overall, we will all gain one way or another.

As many youth get reliable employment, turning to petty crime to support themselves becomes less attractive, and the crime rate is subdued. We need to look more at non-conventional solutions to pimp poverty. In Tanzania, unlike our Northern neighbours, Kenyans, sports have never been taken seriously as a poverty reduction tool. That attitude needs to change now. As the world is immersed in the information age, sports have become a means to thwart poverty, and we ought to view it in this category.

Overall, the co-hosting of continental soccer of this magnitude should pave the way for making a case for co-hosting the FIFA World Cup. There is no sin in dreaming big. With these facilities for AFCON once on the ground doubling them in a few years should launch our FIFA World Cup in much better terrain.

That will be something that, hopefully, will happen in our lifetime. This article intentionally skipped the possible corruption that has engulfed most preparations of a similar level. Unscrupulous government officials will look at this event as an opportunity for self-enrichment, hiking the project’s costs beyond the Tshs 286 billion.

Most infrastructural projects in Tanzania tend to be inflated to accommodate official grafts. We can only pray and hope this project will not bust her budget, soiling the initial good intentions. We will monitor project costs to see if graft takers do not have a field day. The project may also offer a litmus test on how we have grown as a nation to curb runaway construction project costs.

Rather than Dodoma, Zanzibar should be prioritised as a parting shot in stadium construction, given the multiplier effect Zenji tourism will add to our pockets. Dodoma is a government business, but nothing else should prey on the minds of the policymakers. Unless both sites are under consideration, but of a choice has to be made, Zanzibar should take the crown home.

The author is a Development Administration specialist in Tanzania with over 30 years of practical experience, and has been penning down a number of articles in local printing and digital newspapers for some time now.

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