By Staff Writer
FOR many Africans, the Chinese in Africa are synonymous with grand modern infrastructure.
Indeed, infrastructure is the large foot print that the Chinese have stamped on Africa.
It is one presence of the Chinese which is unlikely to be marched for a long time.
Principally what is more familiar are the new shining rail lines foremost.
Chinese built rail lines are now touching nearly every corner of Africa, north, south east and west.
Then come roads; kilometre upon kilometer of modern Asphalt roads crisscrossing the continent, and soaring bridges.
Other infrastructure include Hospitals, massive hydro Dams and sky scrapper urban buildings, among which is the headquarters of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa.
Yet, among this very important array of infrastructure is one category of infrastructure whose importance lies far beyond the immediate monetary considerations.
It is infrastructure which although from casual glance may appear to have intangible benefits, its value has far reaching economic and socio-political benefits and ramifications.
This is the ubiquitous Stadium in Africa.
China has been constructing stadiums across the world either as aid or through soft loans from 1940.
In Africa, by 2010, the Chinese had built 58 stadiums across the continent.
Currently the number of stadiums or sports arenas that have been built since that time or under construction is estimated to have risen by almost a third.
Among the latest stadiums on the line in Africa include the Olympic stadium in Ivory coast which will be ready in time to host the 2021 Africa cup of nations soccer tournament.
Among the first batch of stadia built under the banner of “Friendship stadiums” is the Amaan stadium in Zanzibar which was built by the Chinese in 1970.
Other stadiums started following rapidly after that.
It must be explained that at independence in the late 195s and early sixties, no proper stadia existed as such except in three or four instances.
In Zambia for instance, on the copper mining enclave of the north, the expatriate white community had built their own sports facilities and arenas but not to the satisfaction that would be called an international stadium.
At independence, the independence stadium, where all the visiting British dignitaries gathered for the ceremonies was a hastily done open air job with only a patchy grand stand roof in case it rained.
The Independence stadium in Gambia was another early stadium.
Mali who hosted the 2002 AFCON tournament benefitted from five stadia for that tournament.
The Zambians themselves benefitted from the massive all weather Heroes stadium which ironically dwarfs the Independence stadium as they are adjacent.
Other facilities followed, the Marien Ngouabi stadium in the republic of Congo, Estadio 11 de Novembro in Luanda, Angola and the Benguela city stadium.
For the AFCON 2008 in Ghana, two new stadiums were built and two refurbishments at a cost of US$135. Million.
In 2010, four more stadia were built in Angola, then the Estadio de Bata, in Equatorial Guinea.
Other stadia of note, as we cannot exhaust all of them by name here are The National sports stadium in Harare, built in 1987 and renovated in 2006, the 24 de Setembro stadium in Guinea Bissau in 1980.
In Mozambique, there is the Friendship stadium and stade de L’Amitie in Gabon’
Others are Peter Mokaba and Mbombela stadiums in South Africa, Akwa Ibom international stadium in Nigeria, Bingu national stadium in Malawi, Levy Mwanawasa stadium in Zambia, June, 11 stadium in Libya and Benjamin Mkapa national stadium in Tanzania.
These infrastructure and others not mentioned here represent billions of Dollars of Chinese investments in sports infrastructure on the continent.
The influx of world class stadia in Africa has accelerated the development of football throughout the continent.
Football has now attracted serious corporate sponsors bringing in millions of dollars and creating employment for hundreds of people and their families.
Football players playing for top clubs with strong financial sponsorship backing currently earn money which is the envy of many office workers in Africa.
More and more African players have now broken into the rich and lucrative leagues of Europe where they are earning of millions of Dollars per annum and remitting the money back to Africa.
Football has also evolved into a handy tool for politicians in Africa.
It is a game that has national wide support and it is said in any African country that when their national team is playing in a tournament, the whole country is united.
It is for this reason that governments themselves have poured millions into the sector.
The Chinese stadium in Africa therefore, is not a trivial sporting infrastructure but a vital investment with ever increasing returns both monetary wise and social wise.
As the Chinese keep up their momentum in investing in Africa, the hope is that such infrastructure as these would spread to even remote parts of the vast continent.