Africa

African viewpoint: Lasting legacies?

  • 12 September 2012
  • From the section Africa
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A South African football fan cheers as he waits for the opening ceremony of the 2010 football World Cup in June 2010

In our series of viewpoints from African journalists, London-based Ugandan writer Joel Kibazo considers Africa's legacy projects in the wake of the end of the Olympics.

For nearly two months London has been a city punch-drunk on the glory of the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, with events in the real world - or for that matter the rest of the world - all but banished to the outer reaches of space.

But this euphoria got me thinking about the legacy of some of the big events that have taken place in Africa.

Call me a pessimist or even a grumpy old man but while there are great benefits in some ways, I feel these things also have the effect of giving you a temporary high in which the world looks to be changing, only for us to land back on earth with a huge bump.

None was perhaps bigger than the football World Cup held in South Africa a mere two years ago.

I remember how impressed I was as I went round many of the stadiums just before the start.

And the sparkling new hotels were not only for the World Cup but were to serve the millions of tourists that would be generated by the tournament.

But it was the positive mood and sheer hope of what was to follow the World Cup that was even more infectious.

'Lofty hopes shattered'

Stephen Kiprotich was Uganda's first Olympic gold medal winner in 40 years

For millions of South Africans, life was going to be different after the World Cup - better, with more opportunities, more jobs, in fact a new South Africa.

Such lofty hopes and dreams were bound to be shattered and when I was in South Africa a few weeks ago there was little of the spirit of 2010.

All the talk was about the political leadership of the country and the faltering economy which has dashed all those hopes, particularly on the jobs front.

And I have to say I, and many others around the world, watched with horror as police shot and killed strikers at the Marikana mine, and then 270 miners arrested during the protests were charged with murder under an apartheid-era law.

Thank goodness it triggered a national outcry and the charges were dropped but what a sign that not all had changed in the South Africa of the World Cup.

But it is not only sports events that create this illusion of a better world to come.

In Uganda, my own country, many have long forgotten the hopes and much anticipated benefits of the country's hosting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) in 2007.

Uganda pulled out all the stops for the Commonwealth meeting

Kampala looked like it had never looked before and the streets were lined with huge crowds to greet the British Queen, who is also the head of the Commonwealth, as well as other world leaders such as Gordon Brown, the then-British prime minister attending the summit.

Yes, roads were repaired and infrastructure for the capital was improved with much spent on things like security cameras for the city.

But I have heard many a small hotelier complaining since that they have seen little of the tourism bonanza that was to follow.

And by chance, only last month the case resumed against three ministers charged with causing the loss of $5.5m (£3.4m) during the preparations for the summit.

We look for happy-ever-afters from these international jamborees that, with a few exceptions, never come.

They can be a catalyst for development and improvement but unless they are very carefully managed, it all ends in disappointment and despair.

With the London games now closed, I fear the hangover and then despair as the reality of the UK's economic problems returns to take centre stage.

But I will at least have one memory from the Olympics to keep me warm - the raising of the Uganda flag at the closing ceremony to mark the marathon win of Stephen Kiprotich.

For me, that will be a lasting legacy.

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