A few days ago, the Managing Director of Nakumatt, Mr Atul Shah, expressed his dream to see East Africa host the 2030 World Cup, Cricket World Cup in 2031 and the Olympics in 2032. Being at the helm of one of East Africa’s big businesses operating across the region, his dream is one that is founded on great faith and optimism in our region.

Without a doubt, the World Cup is the biggest sporting event in the World. During the month long event, global attention is directed towards the hosts significantly raising their profile around the globe. The event also results in a significant growth of tourism and many other additional economic benefits to the host country.

In light of this, I am in full support of this dream of an East African World Cup in 2030. Bidding jointly for such a major global event would demonstrate our commitment to our integration efforts. This would lead to elimination of barriers to integration making it easier for citizens of the region to conduct business within the region. Furthermore, the East African Community Secretariat in Arusha and the member countries would have a tangible goal with a definite timeline to work towards.

On top of an increase in tourism hosting the World Cup would also benefit our economies through an increase in merchandise sales, advertising revenues and job creation. Nonetheless, infrastructural development and improvement of regional security management would be the lasting mark of hosting the event. As it is, we have a number of cities including Nairobi, Kisumu, Eldoret, Mombasa, Kampala, Arusha, Jinja, Dar-es-Salaam and Kigali that can be upgraded to be able to host matches. The preparation for hosting the World Cup, would involve the construction of more and better stadia and hotels to host our visitors. Such an important global event would also require installation of modern transport and communications infrastructure including airports, railways and inter-state road network connecting our cities. Furthermore, in order to ensure the safety of the visitors, all our countries would need to invest in a re-engineering of the management of security in the region. These investments in infrastructure and security would serve the benefit of our countries even long after the world cup is over. In essence, hosting the world cup will enable us improve the existing developmental system in the region by helping us to prioritise better and to allocate resources accordingly.

Kenya should take initiative and lead this process as we stand to benefit the most from such a project. Working towards such a dream would be an impetus to our Vision 2030 whose appeal seems to be fizzling out. The World Cup related development project would become the new flagship projects for Vision 2030 with the World Cup serving as an important finish line. It would create hope amongst the Kenyan people by giving us all something positive to look forward to instead of continued engagement in the political sideshows that have become such an integral part of our lives.

Hosting the World Cup would also be an opportunity for all countries in the region to improve their soccer standards. In order to have national teams that can play competitively in the World Cup, we would need to rethink the training of our national teams and improve our support to them. This may include starting academies that target children at early ages and establishing national teams from age 6, 9, 13 and 17 whom we can develop to represent the region at the time.

I call upon the East African leadership and the EAC Secretariat to take this up and start preparations for a joint bid soonest possible. Coming together as a region for a project such as this is in our common interest.

Here’s to an East African World Cup! Let’s validate the dream.