Kenya’s President, William Ruto, formally unveiled the country’s joint bid with East African neighbours, Uganda and Tanzania, to host the 2027 Africa Cup of Nations finals on Monday in Nairobi.

Ruto noted the joint bid, dubbed “Pamoja” – the Swahili word for together – is part of the government’s plan to harness skills and talent in sport.

Ruto declared that his Cabinet Secretary for Youth Affairs, Sports and Arts had been assigned to liaise with counterparts in Uganda and Tanzania to formulate “a winning bid so that the people of our three countries can look forward to participating in a successful 2027 tournament bid.”

He expressed his confidence that East Africa would finally host the biennial continental showpiece for the first time ever, despite competition from rival bids from previous hosts, Algeria and Egypt, as well as Botswana.

Namibia, who had initially agreed to present a joint bid with Botswana, withdrew from the running in February, citing a lack of financial resources to host the tournament last held in Cameroon the previous year.

Ruto further pledged infrastructure development, enhanced monetization of sporting talent, and the reinstatement of Kenya’s football into good standing as the key interventions his administration is keen on implementing to support the bid.

The Pamoja bid will be submitted to the Confederation of African Football on Wednesday.

Kenya was granted and later stripped of the rights to host the 1996 AFCON and 2021 Africa Home Nations finals.

CAF’s demands for any country hosting its matches are that the venues must be near an airport, a level five hospital, and a five-star hotel, with the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, being the only facility approved to host continental matches in the region

The joint bid by Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania is expected to compete with the individual ones of Algeria, Botswana and Egypt, who have all expressed interest in hosting the 24-nation continental football extravaganza.

Why do countries bid to host big sporting events? The most compelling reason is to portray soft power, that is, for nations to showcase their ability to organise such big events and favourably advertise themselves to the rest of the world.

It is the reason many third world countries have bid to host mega events such as the Fifa World Cup, Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games etc, never mind the astronomical economic costs that leave many questioning why the resources could not have been directed elsewhere.

Why would hard up Kenya, without a single existing stadium that meets, not even Fifa, but CAF minimum standards want to prioritize hosting the 2027 Afcon over, say, improving sports governance and infrastructure.

As late as February this year, CAF informed the federation that none of Kenya’s best stadiums met their standards. Kenya’s bid to host the 2025 World Athletics Championships failed because the designated venue, MISC, simply could not fit the bill.

CS Ababu Namwamba fancifully talked about a “sports infrastructure development masterplan” without giving any details in terms of costs, projects, sites and timelines.

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