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Africa and Aboriginal Tuesdays: World Cup 2010 - Give African Scientists A Chance! by Sifelani Tsiko

Good morning South Africa 2010! The world's greatest footballing event came to a close after the grand finale between Italy and France.

It's now Africa's turn to host this prestigious and multi-billion dollar event.

Many by now could be scratching their heads as to why this week I've decided to zero in on the World Cup, in particular the 2010 edition to be held down south.

Well, as you might know, the World Cup is big business and behind it are architects, engineers, IT specialists, wood technologists, electrical engineers, telecommunications experts and a whole array of other experts in the scientific and technological fields.

Will African scientists and other technical experts really benefit from the hosting of the 2010 World Cup on African soil?

Will other African businesses too benefit from the opportunities this event will offer?

There are no easy answers to this. Africa has for many years watched from the terraces as giant multi-national corporations reaped huge rewards from World Cup events ranging from advertising, satellite broadcasting, architectural work, transport, the food and beverage sectors, clothing and numerous other sectors.

Germany managed to enhance its sporting facilities using its architects, engineers, IT specialists and other technical experts.

It is possible that Germany utilised the huge pool of talent from African scientists who migrated to Europe and North America in the construction of the state-of-the-art soccer arenas for the 2006 edition of the World Cup.

The bulk of builders of these magnificent structures were from North African countries. Africa provided cheap labour while the big multinationals reaped huge rewards in many ways in the preparations for the World Cup in Germany.

Of course some critics will say the beautiful game unites people of all races and will dismiss this article as malicious and misdirected.

In simple terms, football unites races on the pitch and when it comes to the dollars that go with it, racism rears its ugly head.

Multinationals are everywhere and will in the coming four years be strategically positioning their missiles to reap everything they can lay hands on in South Africa.

It is all too easy for the South Africans to give multibillion dollar contracts to firms from Europe, America and Asia while locals and even scientists from across the Limpopo only play supporting roles to this multibillion dollar sporting event.

There is a huge pool of Zimbabwean engineers in South Africa as well as others from fellow African countries. A good number of them have highly impressive portfolios inside South Africa and it will be sad if these scientists and other technical experts lose out to their counterparts from Europe, America and Asia when it comes to contracts for the upgrading of stadium facilities, airports, metro rail systems, telecommunications and other critical sectors.

The 2010 World Cup in South Africa will present huge opportunities for countries within the Southern African Development Community (Sadc).

Already, Zimbabwe is pressing ahead with the development of Beitbridge, a small town on the border with South Africa, about 600km south of Harare using local engineers and architects in preparation of the sporting event.

Benefits of the 2010 World Cup should trickle down to the ordinary builder, wood technologist, architect, IT expert, electrical engineer and any other technical expert who ordinarily lives in South Africa and its neighbours.

Without the participation of African scientists, then there will be no sense of ownership or participation in the forthcoming World Cup.

It will remain a European World Cup with nothing for Africans to show. Africans will be spectators while the bulk of scientific and technological experts from Europe would rake in billions of dollars using their multinational conglomerates.

It will be a World Cup in Africa in name only with no real stake for African scientists and other technological experts.

Many will argue that a number of South African companies will do the job. But when you look at the ownership structures, one will find that it's either they are subsidiaries of the conglomerates from Europe or are owned by white South Africans.

Black South Africans are not in the equation either. It will not be surprising that the majority of blacks will only get low paying jobs or contracts -- builders, carpentry, plumbing with no real stake in the highly paying ones -- advertising, architecture, engineering, IT and the telecommunications sectors.

African scientists need to be proactive in their fight for a stake in the multibillion-dollar World Cup business.

At times as Africans we are to blame for losing jobs, as some of us clamour for jobs but fail to deliver.

In the past, a number of African engineering firms secured tenders in sporting events but later failed to deliver losing them to bigger conglomerates from Europe. We must put our act together and show the world that Africa can do it.

Critics are already raising dust over South Africa's hosting of the competition. They claim that South Africa will not be ready to host the showpiece citing poor transport infrastructure, crime and the unavailability of world class stadiums.

Africans should rally behind South Africa.

The World Cup celebrates the powerful spirit of international football; the power of football goes beyond the limits of the pitch.

An equitable distribution of business coupled with smart partnerships between giant multinationals with African firms can make the 2010 World Cup a better sporting competition.

With the participation of African scientists, 2010 can be more meaningful to the continent.

This article was published in The Zimbabwe Herald

Sifelani Tsiko

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

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The views and opinions expressed herein by the author do not necessarily represent the opinions or position of or Black Electorate Communications.

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