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Africa Games

Minority statement: Ghana’s monumental disaster in just ended 13th African Games addressed by Ranking Member, Parliamentary Select Committee on Youth, Sports and Culture, Hon. Kobena Mensah Woyome – Tuesday 26 March, 2024

Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the media. We are grateful to you for your attendance at such a short notice, for this press conference on the just ended 13th African Games.

Ghana has for the first time hosted the African Games, Accra 2023, initiated under President John Mahama’s administration and continued by the government of the day. Much as the games showcased the sporting prowess of Africa, enhanced cultural exchanges, promoted solidarity, social cohesion and peace on the continent, the just ended games were a monumental disaster and total embarrassment to our dear country.

The Akufo-Addo/Bawumia NPP government spent a staggering $240 million on the just ended Games. Yet the organisation and management of the event was poor and shambolic. Quite apart from the fact that it lacked clear combined effect of economic viability, the organisation of the games lacked clear cut policies for tourism promotion and trade facilitation. These would have given us some economic value for the huge expenditure on the games.

While the government sacrificed value for money principles and breached procurement procedures, infringed on the Public Financial Management Act leading to huge expenditure, Ghanaians have been swayed by the frivolous outcome of the games to believe all is well.

Given the current state of the Ghanaian economy which has been rendered bankrupt by the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia NPP government, emerging details about the hefty expenditure on the games raise eyebrows and concerns among Ghanaians. Several unfortunate incidents that were recorded in the course of the games left many wondering whether that quantum of money was really spent on the games.

Four years ago, Morocco hosted the 12th edition of the African Games, and spent €46 million. Prior to that, Congo Brazzaville spent $60 million to host the 11th edition. With this amount, they built an ultramodern 65,000-seater capacity stadium, a beautiful games village and a new sports dome complex for indoor games.

Australia on the other hand, in July 2023 withdrew its bid to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games on economic grounds. At the time of their withdrawal, Australia’s economic conditions were nowhere near our current self-inflicted economic crises.

Despite the millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money voted for the 13th African Games, it was shocking to hear some of our athletes complain about how they were neglected; some had to provide for their own personal kits and equipment resulting in some of them wearing inappropriate outfits in the course of their events. Much to the disbelief and dismay of many Ghanaians, it was reported that some of our athletes were conveyed to the games grounds at Borteyman in the trunk of an old pickup vehicle.

If we ask, was there no provision for transportation for Team Ghana in all the disciplines? Ghanaians deserve to know how the money that was allocated for transportation and other games logistics was spent. No athlete, for that matter Ghanaian athlete, deserve such degrading treatment.

In addition, our national cycling champion, Michael Naaba had to rely on his own personal bicycle which unfortunately broke down in the middle of the cycling competition. He had no choice but to withdraw from the race. Government, the National Sports Authority, the Sports Ministry and the Local Organising Committee made no effort whatsoever to provide an immediate intervention to get him another bicycle. What happened to all the money voted for logistics and equipment. “Na sika no wo hi”?

It was further reported that the first volleyball match was delayed for about 35 minutes as no nets had been installed. Someone must answer for this basic logistical challenge despite the huge amount the LOC received.

At the start of the cycling competition on Sunday, 10th March, 2024, there was no ambulance which delayed the start of the event for over an hour. When the ambulance finally arrived, there was not enough fuel, the driver complained and it took a private individual to fuel the ambulance for the competition to start. That was a national embarrassment before an international audience and cameras. The question is, was the Ambulance Service part of the planning of the Games? if yes, what accounted for the delay that kept cyclists waiting and almost led to the cancellation of the cycling event?

It is important to give a brief breakdown of the various budgeted allocations for the African Games. Parliament approved a total of GH¢150 million in the 2024 Budget for LOC, made up of GH¢100 million for goods and services and GH¢50 million for CAPEX. In addition to this, an amount of $48 million, which is equivalent to about GH¢600 million, was allocated to the LOC for operational expenses. Put together, the LOC alone received about GH¢750 million for its operations. “Na sika no wo hi”?

We must also take note that Parliament approved an amount of $195 million for infrastructure development for the games. We shall in our next interaction with you give further details on the utilization of this amount.

Another issue of concern was the dumsor at the Cape Coast Stadium, the Games Village and the other centres of the games including the University of Ghana, Legon in Accra which left the guests stranded. While the government has been busy denying that dumsor is back, dumsor was advertising itself at the Games. It was so embarrassing to have some of our foreign guests sit outside their rooms due to dark shades which had enveloped the entire area; this left most guests in fear and wondered what was happening. This was most embarrassing. Knowing very well that we had international guests, couldn’t we have saved our country from this shame?

As if that was not shameful enough, the Local Organising Committee employed some people to spray the dead grass on the football pitch with green oil paint at the University of Ghana Sports Stadium in total deception. This action clearly affected most of the players on the pitch. How could we have lowered our standard to this level?

Another issue had to do with our below standard hockey pitch. South Africa on 18th March had to withdraw both their men and women hockey teams from the competition due to the fact that the designated Theodosia Okoh Hockey pitch was not in a certified standard condition. The blame should be laid squarely at the door-steps of the Ministry and the Local Organising Committee, after all the assurances they gave to the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee [SASCOC], that the pitches would be ready for international standard competition. Again, the Ministry and the Local Organising Committee embarrassed Ghana and failed the continental sporting fraternity.

Permit us to touch on an observation made at the opening ceremony. With all the legends and sporting icons Ghana can boast of, it is interesting that Reks Brobbey who is serving as the Chief Operating Officer of the LOC was chosen to light the African Games flame. Is that not a conflict of interest? How can someone who serves as the Local Organizing Committee [LOC] as deputy chairman assume such a role? For the records, Mr. Reks Brobbey cannot be considered as a legend, if the definition of the word is to be adhered to. He has never won any medal for Ghana nor made any meaningful impact per his personal records in his athletic participation for Ghana, especially at the Olympic Games in 1984. He only participated in collegiate sports and one Olympic; is that the criteria? But on the other hand, we have Azuma Nelson [the first Ghanaian to have won a boxing gold medal at the African Games in Algiers in 1978]. We also have Abedi Pele [three times consecutive ‘Africa Footballer of the Year’ – 1991, 1992 and 1993]. Another icon worth mentioning is Professor Francis Dodoo, whose triple jump record of 17.12 still remains unbroken at the African Games since 1987 in Nairobi, Kenya. All these icons were sidelined because of their perceived political backgrounds, without looking at the larger picture of national unity through sports. However, Reks Brobbey, an NPP apparatchik, who has actually benefited from Ghana as an athlete without ever winning a medal for Ghana was made the Chief Operating Officer [COO] of the 13th African Games, Accra 2023. In an obvious conflict of interest situation, this same individual was the ‘Touch Bearer’ and ‘Ambassador’ of the African Games during the opening ceremony, an act traditionally reserved for distinguished legends and icons and definitely not someone, whose athletics record pales in to insignificance when compared with his contemporaries’.

But for arm-wrestling, a non-Olympic event which was admitted into the African Games for the very first time, Ghana’s performance and overall standing on the medals table would have been a horrible disaster. The Arm-wrestling Team saved the nation with 41 medals. It is worth noting though that only eight (8) out of the 52 participating countries competed in arm-wrestling.

While we celebrate the feat chalked in football, boxing and weightlifting, we were disappointing in the rest of the events because of very poor preparation. It is unacceptable that huge sums were voted for the games, without proper and needed interest in the preparation of our sports men and women. Despite the medal haul and its attendant fun fair, it must be noted that no Ghanaian sports man or woman qualified for the upcoming Olympic games in Paris in July at the just ended African games, which was one of our targets. It is clear that Ghana did not give our athletes the best of preparation and this reflected in their performance.

We would however, against the drift of the story, congratulate the Black Princesses and the Satellites teams for coming out victorious in football; as well as congratulate sports men and women from other sporting disciplines such as Boxing, Athletics, Weightlifting, Hockey, Tae Kwan-Do, Swimming and Volleyball, who won some medals (27) out of about 23 disciplines that participated in the games.

It emerged from our interactions with many Ghanaians that they did not even have any information that Ghana was hosting the 13th African Games, much more the designated places for the sporting activities. There was low publicity before and during the games. This affected effective participation of Ghanaians. We however wish to commend media men and media houses and Ghanaians who on their own publicised the events in various ways. We further wish to specially commend the students of the University of Ghana, Legon for their splendid support during the games.

From all the issues associated with the just ended 13th African Games, one can say that, the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia NPP government, the Ministry of Youth and Sports (MOYS), the National Sports Authority and the Local Organising Committee [LOC] have failed Ghanaians, all things considered. Huge amounts of taxpayers’ money that was committed did not yield the desired impact and in addition, caused us disgrace with substandard pitches, disruptions to competitions, logistical challenges, poor preparation of Team Ghana and poor management of the 13th African Games on the whole.

As the curtains have been drawn on the Games, can we boldly say as a country that we have had value for money? Amid the economic hardship, Government should have been more prudent in the hosting of the 13th African Games. Government should have been more sensitive and measured in taking decisions that would have achieved better results than the shame and disgrace we have brought upon ourselves with such huge expenditures.

In the coming days, we shall give Ghanaians much more detailed account of the rot in the preparation and the hosting of the 13th African Games. The rot associated with the just ended games is too much for one press conference. It is unfortunate that President Akufo-Addo attacked Ghanaians who suggested the need for Ghana to rethink our hosting of the games due to the collapsed economy and the hardships created by the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government. While the President’s unwarranted attack is worrying, we are not surprised. His tactless conduct is consistent with his baseless “cease and desist” letter to the Rt. Hon. Speaker. It is also not different from his attack on the Aflao chief, the chiefs and people of Mepe and Kwabre East, as well as his unprovoked attacks on the chiefs and people of Ekumfi. Is the President telling us to be quiet and just look on while he and his team continue to mismanage our resources? Instead of President Akufo-Addo using such an opportunity to unite us, regardless of the various concerns expressed, his closing remarks are rather an insult to all who expressed genuine concerns about the preparation and hosting of the just ended 13th African Games. This contradicts the vision of our forebears such as Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, whose vision was to use sports to unite the people of the continent, hence the continental games.

In conclusion, we wish to call on the government to come out and explain to Ghanaians what accounted for all the shameful occurrences and render an unqualified apology. We, the NDC Minority Caucus, call for a bi-partisan Parliamentary probe into the budget and expenditure for the preparation and organisation of the Games.

We wish to take this opportunity to wish all the foreign participating countries a safe journey back home. We hope they enjoyed the legendary Ghanaian hospitality. Thank you.

Credit: Hon. Kwabenya Woyome, Ranking Member, Parliamentary Select Committee on Youth, Sports and Culture 

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