How the Joint AFCON 2027 would boost regional integration

By Paul Chayuga

The news for the acceptance of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania “Pamoja bid” to host the African Cup of Nations (Afcon) was received with great jubilations in East Africa. This is because for the very first time the region will be hosting the continent’s most prestigious tournament. In addition, it will be the first time that three states will be hosting an Afcon tournament. By hosting the tournament, the East African Community (EAC) vision of deeper integration can be realized. Since its formation the EAC envisioned a united that would work together for the good of its member states.

Globally sports diplomacy has played a major role in the way states relate with each other. For instance, it is through global sporting events such as the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup that some states build close ties. The “Pamoja bid” was motivated by this. Could this be the right opportunity for the region to cement its calls for deeper and stronger regional integration?

Hosting of this tournament will have great impact both locally and internationally. First the countries will benefit domestically where all the three countries are likely to benefit from enhanced infrastructure to meet CAF standards as well as other economic boost due to the influx of fans from other countries across the continent. The region is likely to gain economically, socially, and in terms of sports development. Secondly hosting the tournament will boost the region’s soft power appeal and international standing. By jointly hosting the tournament, political frictions that existed between them could be resolved.  Hosting the AFCON 2027 in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania will promote closer collaboration and cooperation among these countries in terms of infrastructure development, security, and logistics. The joint effort required to successfully host such a major sporting event can foster stronger ties and encourage the sharing of resources and expertise.

Since time immemorial sports has played a vital role in bringing together warring countries or parties. The AFCON 2027 won’t be an exemption as the event will be a diplomatic bridge between nations as it will provide a neutral ground for peaceful dialogue and cooperation. Drawing insights from the ping pong diplomacy between the United States and China in the early 1970s  where table tennis matches between these two provided pathway for formal diplomatic ties and thawing Cold War tensions. By jointly hosting of Afcon it will similarly thaw regional tension.

Through AFCON there will be joint infrastructural developments, especially the stadiums, the road and air network to facilitate easy movement in the region. This will be in line with the fundamental objectives of the East African Common Market Protocol of facilitating the free, safe, and orderly movement of individuals across the region. This is because some players will be staying in Kenya but having their matches played in Uganda or Tanzania thus the need for fast and swift movement. The various relevant ministries from the three countries are already working together to address some of the infrastructural gaps within the region and thus enhancing regional integration.

AFCON will provide an avenue for political exploitation as it will bring the EAC nations together as it will provide an opportunity for the governments of these countries to engage in sports diplomacy and strengthen their state relations. The tournament is likely to push the region towards formation and strengthening of one political federation in charge of the entire region. AFCON will provide a platform for high-level government officials from Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania to come together and engage in diplomatic discussions on various issues ranging from sports-related matters to broader issues of regional cooperation, trade, and security. The shared experience of hosting and participating in the event can facilitate dialogue and collaboration on various fronts.

Lastly the event will also promote peace, cultural exchange, people-to-people diplomacy and cooperation as it will attract spectators from the member states going to the neighboring state to watch certain matches.  This tournament is likely to leave the region more united than before as it is capable of building bridges, it will provide a platform for resolving traditional conflicts, and will also clear any doubts and mistrust among the three countries thus shaping the course of regional integration. The EAC pamoja bid is likely to promote intra-regional trade. AFCON will stimulate regional trade activities and business opportunities. It will create a platform for local businesses to showcase their products and services, leading to increased trade and investment within the region. This can contribute to the overall economic integration and development of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. That notwithstanding region hosting AFCON 2027 will enhance its visibility and reputation globally thus attracting international attention, tourists, and investors, leading to economic growth and development. This increased exposure can also help showcase the diverse cultures, natural beauty, and tourism potential of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.

In summary, sports diplomacy plays a significant role in building state relations by utilizing sports as a platform for fostering cooperation, understanding, and goodwill between nations. It is clear that sports can unite nations and transcend differences, thus it is a vital tool in diplomacy and remains a beacon of hope in the realm of international diplomacy. This goes without saying, AFCON is likely to play a major role in shaping EAC’s dream of full regional integration.



Paul holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations and diplomacy and currently, he is pursuing a masters in International relations and diplomacy at Kenyatta University. He is a researcher skilled at analyzing global affairs, policy dynamics, and diplomatic relations at Kenya School of Government’s Security Management Institute. His research areas include; migration, democracy, diplomacy, foreign relations, security, climate change and environmental conservation.