African Games put Ghana under severe economic pressure | Sports | DW

Ghana is in a race against time as the country is set to host the 13th African Games. Ghana prevailed over the applications from Nigeria and Burkina Faso and was awarded the contract in 2018.

5,000 participants from 55 African countries are expected to attend the two-week multi-sport event. Due to the currently difficult economic circumstances, however, the planning and construction in the capital Accra is progressing too slowly. Sports venues may not be ready by August 4, when games are due to begin.

Sports facilities still under construction

“I believe that the people who applied for the construction did not bid on behalf of Ghana. Because even at the time, things were not looking good for us economically. And it was already the question of whether we could do it Diverting funds elsewhere to put into this project,” Nana Kwaku Agyemang, a former soccer coach and Ghanaian TV analyst, told DW.

Borteyman, a district of the capital, is one of the planned venues where a new stadium is to be built. But this has yet to be completed. And the sports complex of the University of Ghana, Legon, where the track and field competitions are to be held, was still under construction at the time of DW’s visit.

Two people hold Ghanaian money in their hands

The Ghanaian currency has lost half of its value against the US dollar

One of the big problems: In 2022, Ghana saw its currency depreciate by 58 percent and had to ask the International Monetary Fund for a $3 billion bailout to keep the economy afloat.

Ghanaian inflation rose to 54.1 percent in December, the highest level in 22 years. This is the seventh highest value worldwide. According to the country’s statistics office, food prices rose 59.7 percent and transportation costs rose 71.4 percent. All of this makes the Ghanaian population increasingly doubt the organization of such a financially intensive sporting event.

Late organization

The Africa Games is the continent’s premier multisport event. Like most hosts of major sporting events, Ghana hopes the event will spur infrastructure development and boost the local economy.

However, after the Ghanaian government had been awarded the contract for the organisation, a local organizing committee was not set up until two years later. “The outbreak of the corona epidemic has really affected our plans,” said Dan Kwaku Yeboah, Accra Games communications director.

Ghana had originally drawn up plans to build a new stadium with a capacity of 60,000. But against the backdrop of the pandemic, a hybrid model was chosen, with the University of Ghana and the new Borteyman Sports Complex hosting the events. Athletes from the participating countries should be housed in the university accommodation.

Too late to turn back?

Former Ghanaian President John Mahama criticized current ruler Nana Akuffo Addo’s decision to host the games and called for the games to be withdrawn. But the organizers were not impressed.

Ghana |  Borteyman Sports Complex construction site in Accra

With less than six months to go before the Africa Games, the Borteyman Sports Complex is also unfinished

“Over $200 million has been committed to the project. The economic challenges are there, but the government is 100 percent confident that Ghana will host the games,” said communications director Yeboah. It seems too late for Ghana to turn back.

Wrong timing

The games come at the wrong time, explains Daniel Anim Amateye: “Given the state of our economy, it is not advisable to host the games,” said the Ghanaian economist. “Our conditions are so bad that the government has to withhold funds from bondholders’ investments. So any money that comes in is expected to be reinvested in the economy.” Despite the possibility of promoting tourism through the event, experts do not expect the games to be of any benefit to the population.

Ghana last hosted a major sporting event in 2008. 16 countries competed in the Africa Cup of Nations. At that time the country was much more prosperous. Despite the huge investment in infrastructure during this period, some of the stadiums are underutilized and left to rot. “The fact is that the government is broke,” economist Amateye said. “The government cannot pay off the investors who have invested in government securities and that affects pensioners. The government cannot meet its obligations.”

Many international sporting events have had to be postponed in the past two years due to the difficult conditions caused by the corona pandemic. Ghana could use this or ask the African Union for more time to put things right. Neither would be seen as a failure of Ghana. Ghanaian TV analyst Kwaku Agyemang agrees: “Take the games away from us and give them to someone else who can play them.”

Adapted from the English by Jörg Strohschein.