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Big Money, Big Dreams: Africa’s Chances At The World Cup

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Not only is the Football World Cup the most watched sporting event in the world, it is also among the most lucrative. It makes more money than any other sporting spectacle apart from the Olympic Games and attracts more eyeballs than anything else on the small screen.

The 2014 World Cup reached almost half the global population of 7 billion people, according to a report released by FIFA and Kantar Media. In-home television audiences were reported at 3.2 billion people, with the final viewed by a billion people – and everything about the World Cup just keeps super-sizing.

In 2026, 48 teams will compete at the World Cup, 16 more than the current field of 32; 80 matches will be played, 18 more than the current 64; and revenue will skyrocket with FIFA’s early calculations suggesting a more than $700 million hike in profits.

While those eye-popping numbers can be ogled at and analyzed over the next nine years, for this year’s tournament FIFA have continued the trend of increasing the prize money for the World Cup, which has happened for the last five editions. In 2018, rewards have increased by 40%.

A total of $400 million will be shared among the 32 participating teams, with each team set to finish with a minimum of $9.5 million ($1.5 million in preparation fee and $8 million for a group stage exit). The winners will take home $38 million.

That’s a lot of many to dish out for an organization that spent a significant time between May 2015 and February 2016 muddling through a massive corruption scandal, which resulted in 18 people and two corporations being indicted and a complete change of the guard.

Sepp Blatter’s 17-year reign at FIFA was ended when he was slapped with an eight-year ban (since reduced to six years) for an unethical offering of a cash gift and conflicts of interest. He was replaced in an interim capacity by Cameroon’s Issa Hayatou, who served president of the Confederation of African Football for 29 years and was initially accused of accepting a bribe, a charge he denied. In fact, no-one involved in the scandal was African, though a payment of $10 million from Danny Jordaan – president of the South African Football Association – to FIFA, which was then sent on to Jack Warner, head of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association, apparently intended as developmental support, was key in Warner’s downfall. Jordaan escaped unscathed.

Hayatou was never intended to be a long-term appointment and handed over to Gianni Infantino in 2016. At 46 years old, Infantino became the youngest FIFA president since the Second World War, but has yet to properly win the hearts or minds of the football-following public.

A survey endorsed by Transparency International in March last year, 12 months after Infantino took over, revealed that 53% of the 25,000 fans who responded to the questionnaire do not have confidence in FIFA as an organization, while 98% of people claimed to still be concerned about corruption. More tellingly, for the purposes of this story and the tournament that will take place in June, 43% of people disapproved of Russia as hosts for the World Cup.

Some of that sentiment stems from the process of allocating World Cup hosts, which was investigated and shown to be questionable, some of had come from Russia’s involvement in the Ukraine and the third group of nay-sayers would have been those appalled by the history of racism in the Russian game, something that remains of particular concern for African players. Feelings aside, on June 14 the first whistle will blow and the tournament will kick off.

FIFA will hope the flagship event will take some of the focus off a turbulent last few years and pave the way for a more transparent and inclusive future. Here is a complete guide to what the organization is hoping can be forgotten, how the World Cup will be funded and what the African continent can hope to achieve from sport’s greatest showpiece.

Financial Losses and Forecasts

The effects of the scandal that dogged FIFA through most of 2015 were largely financial. An article published by The Economist in June 2017, revealed that FIFA lost three times more money in 2016 than in 2015 – $369 million – and were forecasting an even greater deficit in 2017, of $489 million. But in March 2018, FIFA’s annual report revealed losses of only $191.5 million in 2017, leading to the organization declaring itself as having had a “successful year for all key financial parameters”.  Still, FIFA’s reserves, which had been above $1 billion since 2008, dipped.

READ MORE: The FBI Tackles Fifa

Not all of the loss was due to the scandal; it was also attributed to more funding for members and changes to the accounting system. Legal bills more than doubled, from $20 million in 2015 to $50 million in 2016, and FIFA invested in a museum which cost $190 million, which added to their total costs.

FIFA anticipates a smoother financial road in its next four-year cycle and expects to earn $6.65 billion between 2019 and 2022 inclusive. It also plans to raise payouts to member associations in that time, with each to receive $1.5 million, an increase of $250,000 and FIFA hopes to end the 2022 World Cup with reserves of $1.9 billion.

“I am very pleased to see that Fifa is able to deliver on its promises,” Infantino said. “We had committed to restoring trust in the organization and boosting investments for the development of football worldwide. This is now a reality.”

Sponsorship

A major consequence of the corruption scandal was the loss of sponsors, which make up a significant portion of World Cup revenue. Big name companies such as Sony, Emirates, Castrol and Johnson & Johnson opted not to renew their contracts. By June last year, FIFA had only secured 12 sponsors out of 34 for the World Cup and only one of them was Russian, Moscow’s Alfa-Bank. “With one year to go, this situation is unheard of,” Michael Payne, a former marketing chief for the International Olympic Committee told The Economist at the time.

Since then, FIFA have lined up several more firms, many of them Chinese. Wanda, a private-property developer, electronics company HiSense, smartphone maker Vivo, dairy company Mengniu, and electric vehicle firm Yadea, were all signed on by February as Chinese interest in FIFA grows.

“Mengniu is one of the biggest dairy producers in the world and is a strong brand in the Chinese market. Growing the game worldwide is one of our key priorities, and we now have another strong official sponsor in such an important region,” FIFA’s commercial manager Philippe Le Floc’h said when the dairy company signed off.

China’s interest in FIFA is particularly intriguing because of the country’s interest in hosting the World Cup. Chinese president Xi Jinping met with Infantino last June and a statement released by FIFA said Jinping had “expressed his hope, and the dream of many Chinese people, that the country would have the opportunity to host a FIFA Men’s World Cup at some stage in the future.”

Though China has not made any official statements about bidding for a tournament, speculation is high that they are interested in either the 2030 or 2034 edition.

Meanwhile, Qatar Airways have replaced Emirates until 2022, the year in which the World Cup will be held in Qatar.

Africa’s Big Five

This year, the continent will be represented by three North African and two West African teams, but current Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) champions Cameroon are not among them. Neither are any teams from the east or south of the continent, which largely stems from the professional experience of players from these regions. North and West African players often gain experience in European leagues, especially France, while players in the east and south are less likely to find deals abroad.

Big things will be expected from the five nations, especially as no African team has progressed beyond the quarterfinals of a World Cup. A final four finish will be considered a major triumph as the continent continues to dream of its first world champions.

READ MORE: ‘For 111 Years Fifa Has Not Had An African’

On paper, Tunisia enter the tournament as the best hope. They are the highest-ranked side of the continent, 23rd overall, and have not been at the World Cup since 2006. They have never got past the group stage but with players like Youssef Msakni, who scored a hat-trick against Guinea during qualification and has netted 14 times in 51 international appearances, that could change. The challenge begins early, with their opening match to be played against England, something coach Nabil Maâloul believes will be a true test of character against players from what he calls “the best league in the world.”

For nostalgic reasons, Senegal may be the team considered most likely to break into the semi-finals. They are still regarded as darlings of Africa after they stole hearts with their surge to the 2002 quarterfinals, in their maiden World Cup. They have not been to the tournament since and may not have made it to this one but for a case of match-fixing in the qualifiers, which allowed them to replay a match against South Africa. Their coach, Aliou Cissé, was the captain in 2002, so he will be coming full circle for this event. Their hopes will rest on Sadio Mane, who was the most expensive African transfer when he was bought by Liverpool for $48.2 million on a five-year deal in 2016.

Morocco are Africa’s third-side, ranked 42nd, and have not been to the World Cup since 1998. Their coach Hervé Renard has overseen two successful AFCON campaigns, with Zambia in 2012 and Ivory Coast in 2015. Morocco’s strength is their defence, after they finished unbeaten during the qualifiers without conceding a single goal. Their captain, Medhi Benatia, is regarded as the most accomplished member of their squad. He plays for Italian giants Juventus and Morocco will need his experience in a tough group that includes Spain and Portugal.

Egypt have been away from the global game longest, having last played in a World Cup in 1990. Since then, everything about Egypt has changed, with the Arab Spring having profound effects on society and sport. The football league was cancelled for two seasons between 2011 and 2013 and the game suffered tremendously. Despite being seven-time AFCON champions, Egypt failed to qualify for the 2012, 2013 and 2015 editions of the tournament and have also never won a World Cup game. Now, they can change that. In their squad is the veteran goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary, who is 44 years old and will play in his first World Cup, and 25-year-old Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah, who has been compared to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo recently. He has scored 32 goals in 56 internationals, including five during World Cup qualifying, the joint-highest in the campaign.

Lowest ranked among the African sides at 52nd overall, but perhaps with the highest expectation, is Nigeria, who are making their third successive World Cup appearance and seventh overall. They were the first African team to qualify for the World Cup, a surprise considering they missed out on the last two AFCONs. They have a strong squad which includes John Obi Mikel, a Chelsea stalwart who has since moved to China, Chelsea’s Victor Moses and 21-year-old striker Kelechi Iheanacho, who played for Manchester City before moving to Leicester City. Nigeria have been drawn with Argentina for the fifth time at a World Cup and that will be their key clash on the field. Off the field, Nigeria have long had problems between the players and the football federation surrounding bonuses around World Cups. An agreement on a pay structure was reached late last year.

Racism

There is a danger, however, that the performances of Africa’s teams will be affected by the reception they receive in the tournament’s host nation. Russia is the country in which African footballers have faced the most brazen forms of racism. In 2015, anti-discrimination group Fare revealed research of over 100 incidents of racist behavior in Russian football over two seasons and high-profile players, including Ivorian superstar Yaya Touré and Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o, have complained about being on the receiving end of monkey chants. Touré has even offered his assistance to World Cup organizers to prevent the abuse continuing.

“I have been abused by racism and because those things happened to me, I try to be involved and I want to help those people who don’t have a voice to control this situation,” Toure said. “For me to defend an African boy in this situation is a blessing. What we are looking to do is to try and stop those idiotic people doing that. We have to be focused and have fair play everywhere.”

Touré’s help has not been taken up but Russia has appointed an anti-racism official Alexei Tolkachev, who admitted to The New York Times in 2015 that as young man, he participated in monkey chants, like many compatriots of the same age. “They do it because it was done before and because they don’t know any better,” he said. While Tolkachev advocated for greater education, he also shrugged off the problem, even though FIFA have indicated they will take it seriously.

Infantino has given referees the power to stop or even abandon matches if discriminatory incidents take place and recent evidence suggest that could well be the case. In January this year, Russian club Spartak Moscow posted a video on Twitter of three of its own Brazilian players, Luiz Adriano, Pedro Rocha and Fernando in training in the United Arab Emirates with the words, “See how chocolates melt in the sun.” The tweet was deleted but not before anti-discrimination group Fare condemned the club for showing, “a shocking level of ignorance.” The players involved, who are all black, later denied that any racism existed in Russian football.

Kick off

Despite myriad concerns facing the World Cup, it will go ahead and though there is much to discuss and debate, there is also much to look forward to.

For the first time, video assistant referees will be used at a World Cup, showing a move to embrace technology in decision making. In total, 100,000 jobs have been created and 30,000 volunteers will be used. Russia expects over a million visitors as fans from around the world make their way to the tournament, three million to fill the stadiums and more than three billion to watch on television. The numbers are staggering and only confirm that no matter what happens behind the scenes, the World Cup remains an all-encompassing global spectacle.

Let’s hope Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia make Africa proud.

– By Firdose Moonda

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Forbes Africa | 8 Years And Growing

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As FORBES AFRICA celebrates eight years of showcasing African entrepreneurship, we look back on our stellar collection of cover stars, ranging from billionaires to space explorers to industrialists, self-made multi-millionaire businessmen and social entrepreneurs working for Africa. They tell us what they are doing now, how their businesses have grown, and where the continent is headed. 

Since its inception in 2011, and despite the changing trends in the publishing industry, FORBES AFRICA has managed to stay relevant, insightful and sought-after, unpacking compelling stories of innovation and entrepreneurship on the youngest continent, in which 60% of the population is aged under 25 years.

 Many of those innovations have been solutions-driven as young entrepreneurs across the continent seek to answer questions that have burdened their communities.

 Always on the pulse, FORBES AFRICA has chronicled and celebrated those innovations – prompting the rest of the globe to pay attention and be fully engaged.

 A prime example of this is the annual 30 Under 30 list, which showcases entrepreneurs and trailblazers under the age of 30 from business, technology, creatives and sports. In 2019, we had 120 entrepreneurs on the list, finalized after a rigorous vetting and due diligence process to well laid down criteria.

 We have always maintained the highest standards of integrity in all our reporting.

 As we transition into the next milestone, FORBES AFRICA reflects on the words of civil rights activist Benjamin Elijah Mays, who once said: “The tragedy of life is not found in failure but complacency. Not in you doing too much, but doing too little. Not in you living above your means, but below your capacity. It’s not failure but aiming too low, that is life’s greatest tragedy.”

 With the transformation in the media landscape, the recent awards given to the magazine for the work done by a hard-working, determined and youthful team, serve as a reminder that we are doing something right.

 Early this year, FORBES AFRICA journalist Karen Mwendera received a Sanlam award for financial journalism as the first runner-up in the ‘African Growth Story’ category. In January, FORBES AFRICA’s Managing Editor, Renuka Methil, received the ‘World Woman Super Achiever Award’ from the Global HRD Congress.

 In reflecting on the last eight years, this edition revisits a few of the strong, resilient men and women who have graced our covers.

For some, fortunes have literally changed, as witnessed in the fall of gargantuan African empires such as Steinhoff. Of course, there have been massive moments of triumph too, which have seen some new names feature on the annual African Billionaires List. There have also been moments of tragedy with former cover stars passing away.

 Africa is ripe for the taking and is seen as the next economic frontier. The unique position the continent finds itself in will no doubt give FORBES AFRICA plenty to report on. Here’s to more deadlines and debates for the next eight years.

– Unathi Shologu

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Mastercard: Diligent About Digital In Africa

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Mastercard knows only too well that technology can drive inclusive financial growth with simpler and more efficient ways to do business and life. And Raghu Malhotra, the man spearheading this trajectory in Africa, is also focused on social progress.


In many ways, Raghu Malhotra is like the brand he works for, leaving his footprints in different parts of the world, and in some cases, the most unlikely corners.

On a scorching summer’s day in June 2016, Malhotra traveled 100km east of Jordan’s capital city Amman, to a camp with white tents named Azraq built for the refugees of the Syrian Civil War.

In the desert terrain and hot, windy conditions, people had to queue for hours on end for plates of food handed out of visiting trucks. But some of them, displaced and homeless overnight, expressed their gratitude to Malhotra, President for Mastercard in the Middle East and Africa (MEA).

Mastercard, a technology company that engages in the global payments industry, had distributed e-cards, as part of a global collaboration with the World Food Programme, to the refugees that they could now use to purchase food and other supplies from local shops.

READ MORE | The Big Bank Theory: South Africa’s Banks Of The Future

 “I spoke to the people myself and saw what their lives were… Even those who were doctors with their families and were displaced… They said to me ‘you have restored dignity to our lives; you have no idea how demeaning it is to queue up to be given food’… We actually digitized how that subsidy for food was given. Some of these things go beyond economics,” says Malhotra. 

Beyond economics.

That very simply sums up Malhotra’s mandate for Africa as well.

The New York-headquartered Mastercard, ranked No. 43 on Forbes’ list of the World’s Most Valuable Brands, with a market cap of $247 billion, which connects consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and business, is fostering key partnerships across the African continent to help drive inclusive economic growth.

The idea, Malhotra says, “is to get our global skill-set to operate in its most efficient form in every local economy, at the same time, we must do good, and it must be sustainable.”

He calls Africa the next bastion of growth for various industries.

“As a company, we have stated we are going to get 500 million new consumers globally. And Africa plays a big part of that whole story… We want to be an integral part of various economies here,” says the man responsible for driving Mastercard’s global strategy across 69 markets.

Raghu Malhotra President for Mastercard in the Middle East and Africa. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla

“It probably took us over 20 years to get the first 50 million new consumers, in my part of the world, which is the Middle East and Africa (MEA). It took us probably five years to get the next 50 million, and last year alone, we put over 50 million consumers [in the formal economy] in MEA. That is part of our whole African story, so this is just not rhetoric; we are actually building our business on that basis.”

Home to four of the world’s top five fastest-growing economies, Africa has the fastest urbanization rate in the world, the youngest population, and a rapidly expanding middle class predicted to increase business and consumer spending.

It’s a continent of opportunity for global players like Mastercard with an eye on the potential of a booming consumer base and small and medium entrepreneurs, most of whom are still not a part of the formal economy. A large proportion of Africa is still unbanked. There is enough business opportunity in offering people digital tools so they can lead respectable financial lives.

READ MORE | The Monk Of Business: Ylias Akbaraly Talks About Secret To Success And Plans To Take Africa With Him

But it is in knowing that financial inclusion is not just about technology, but more about solving bigger problems, as the World Bank says in its overview for Africa: “Achieving higher inclusive growth and reaping the benefits of a demographic dividend will require going beyond a business as usual approach to development for Africa. Going forward, it is imperative that the region undertakes the following four actions, concurrently: invest more and better in its people; leapfrog into the 21st century digital and high-tech economy; harness private finance and know-how to fill the infrastructure gap; and build resilience to fragility and conflict and climate change.”

And in order to enable financial access, Mastercard has a balanced strategy in place, with the right partnerships for inclusive growth on the continent, Malhotra tells FORBES AFRICA.

“Every emerging market has different segments of people and you need to get the right product for the right segment. What we do is a balanced growth strategy across the continent based on timing, opportunity etc… Of course, because the bottom of the pyramid is much bigger, I think what we need is to adapt things differently; that is where the inclusive growth story comes from. That is where the opportunity is, but there is a second part to it…” And that, he summarizes, is advancing sustainable growth, doing good and bringing more transparency and efficiency.

The new pragmatic dispensation of governments in Africa towards ideas, technology and innovation has surely helped open up the stage to newer segment-driven products, especially as Africa already has such global laurels as Safaricom’s mobile money transfer and micro-financing service M-Pesa that took financial access to a whole new level. Also, sub-Saharan Africa remains one of the fastest-growing mobile markets in the world.

READ MORE | Feisty And Fearless Pioneers Thandi Ndlovu & Nonkululeko Gobodo

Malhotra says he finds African governments consistent in how they are rolling out their digital vision, and in trying to collaborate towards creating better ecosystems for their economies, though each is unique with its own dossier of problems.

“When I speak to various governments around Africa, I see a commonality of what their needs are and I also see a commonality in how they are trying to respond. So I think a lot of them realize running cash economies is a very inefficient way of doing things… Also, the consumer base is much more open to new technology because there is no bedded infrastructure or legacy infrastructure. I think where governments need to start thinking a bit more is how much do they want to do completely on their own.”

Part of this transformation on the path to financial progress is alleviating the burden of cash. Cash still accounts for most consumer payments in Africa. Mastercard, which started out as synonymous with credit cards, continues its efforts to convert consumers from cash to electronic transactions, and move beyond plastic.

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Pioneer For Women In Construction Thandi Ndlovu has died

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The cover of the August (Women’s Month) edition of Forbes Africa beautifully captures the essence of the woman I interviewed only a few weeks ago. Gracious, soft-spoken, brimming with life and energy. Dr Thandi Ndlovu impressed the entire Forbes crew on that afternoon cover shoot with her broad smile, and open yet powerful demeanor.

It is with great sadness that Forbes Africa heard of the accident that took her life on Saturday the 24 August 2019.

READ MORE |COVER: Feisty And Fearless Pioneers Thandi Ndlovu & Nonkululeko Gobodo

She had given so much to South Africa and its people – through the apartheid years and during the 25 years of democracy, literally building a better future, first through her medical practice at Orange Farm and then through her company, Motheo Construction Group and the scholarships for tertiary education granted by her Motheo Children’s Foundation.

That sunny winter’s afternoon, I asked her if she, at the age of 65, was considering retirement, and she laughed. A lively, amiable laugh. She told me she was healthy and strong and easily worked 12 to 13 hour days.

READ MORE | WATCH | Making Of The Women’s Month Cover: Thandi Ndlovu & Nonkululeko Gobodo

She loved hiking, and has climbed Kilimanjaro twice, reached the base camps of Mount Everest and Annapurna in Nepal. At the time of the interview, she was training to climb Machu Picchu, the famed ruins in Peru’s mountains.

One of her biggest passions was to make a difference in people’s lives and to motivate people to achieve the best they could. The other was to redress the racial tensions that still remained in South Africa.

Dr Thandi Ndlovu, South Africa is poorer for your passing.

-Jill De Villiers

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