Many economies in the world were devastated by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic including Cameroon the 33rd AFCON edition host. However, there is a breath of fresh air as far as businesses in Cameroon are concerned, thanks to the ongoing event. The last time the country hosted the games was in 1972.
Boost to the Hospitality Industry
Of the many sectors set to gain from these games is the hospitality industry. ln most parts of the world, the hospitality industry recorded losses and many hotels and restaurants closed down or downsized. At the moment, hotel owners are smiling to the bank in Cameroon. This is due to the overflow of tourists and fans who are seeking to experience the thrill firsthand as well as the teams participating in the games. While talking to Deutsche Welle (DW) news, a bar owner said,
“We are really working on customer service to welcome our customers well, for them to feel comfortable. Currently, we don’t have TV sets, but we are planning to buy some, and make sure that the place is up to standard. We believe that we should have at least a 30% increase.”
Kennedy Tumemnta, the founder and CEO of African Business Information Bank (AfricanBIB) also talked to DW and this was his observation.
“For example, talking to this lady who is the owner of a prominent Hotel in Yaounde, she said before the beginning of AFCON, she has already hosted one of the teams. This will raise her revenue for two weeks to approximately $24,000 (€21,000), an amount that she didn’t make for the whole 2020-2021 year due to the pandemic.”
New and Renovated Infrastructure
The infrastructure also received a new face after the government allocated $4 billion to build new modern roads, stadiums and to renovate the dilapidated ones. For instance, new roads were constructed to connect six stadiums in which several games will be held. Two new stadiums were built and four that were already in existence were renovated.
Thriving Informal Sector
The informal sector which also suffered huge losses due to the pandemic will also benefit from this biennial event. Locals who earn their income through informal and small businesses have also prepared themselves to earn more income during this season.
For instance, Issa Hamadou, a 23-year-old boiled eggs vendor in Yaounde decided to change his business in order to maximize his profit during this year’s AFCON games. While talking to DW, this is what he had to say after switching his business from boiled eggs to jerseys.
“I sell jerseys like those of Cameroon, Senegal, Ivory Coast— in fact, the jerseys of all 24 countries participating in this year’s AFCON. The competition will generate a lot of enthusiasm. If the Lions win, the country will benefit a lot. The price of jerseys will rise, and we will make more money.”
Despite the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cameroonian youths have also been grappling with the high unemployment rate. Fortunately, during this season, some managed to acquire temporary employment mainly in the construction industry. Opportunities available were for local engineers and laborers.
AFCON comes with some challenges too
Security has been one of the greatest challenges that the Cameroonian government has had to deal with. This is because of the ongoing separatist agitations in some parts of the country. For example, one of the six cities holding the event, Limbe, has been experiencing armed attacks since 2017 when war broke out in that region. A local journalist from Limbe, Honore Kuma, spoke to Reuters news agency and expressed his fears.
“My fear, the fear of many Limbe citizens, is that the recent phenomenon of bomb blasts which have been happening in other parts of Fako division like Buea can be a common phenomenon during this AFCON period.”
The new omicron variant also posed a threat to the commencement of the games after several teams recorded COVID-19 infections. However, the games continued as planned and will end on Feb. 6, 2022. To ensure that the infection does not spread further, fans must provide a full vaccination and negative COVID-19 report before entering the stadiums.