16 Apr 2009

When football and telecoms meet in South Africa

It seems not so long ago that Zinedine Zidane headbutted his way out of the football world cup final in Germany, but the next World Cup is now only a year or so away. This is even bigger news as usual, as it is taking place for the first time in Africa, one of the most football-crazy continents. Having visited African countries during or just after the last African Football Cup of Nations, I can testify that is a big deal there – and it was definitely useful to make friends with a taxi driver in Egypt who was more than pleased to comment on his country’s recent win.
Now, what is the link with telecoms? Well, for a start, large sporting events have always been a great way of boosting uptake of mobile content services. Due to the high price of such services, and to the limited available bandwidth, the market for such services remains small in emerging markets (with the exception of India). Operators and industry commentators also blame the limited success of such services on the lack of original local content. Next year’s world cup could be a great way for operators on the continent to make the most of their recent 3G upgrades and get customers to use their data services.
Closer to my colleagues and me, the preparations for the 2010 event in South Africa are having a considerable impact on our schedule of congresses. Next November, FIFA is holding the final draw of the teams playing in the competition. Judging from the show they put on for the preliminary draw, it’s going to be a big event. It will take place in beautiful Cape Town, at the International Convention Centre. I know this is a great venue, as we use it every year for our flagship event AfricaCom. We were planning to use it the week before FIFA is organising the draw, but it turns out that they will need it in order to prepare for their show.
That is why, after consulting with FIFA and with the Mayor of Cape Town, we are moving our event to 11th and 12th November (instead of 18th and 19th as originally planned). Nomfanelo Magwentshu, Chief Operations Officer for the FIFA World Cup Organizing Committee, says: “it is of the utmost importance to ensure that the preparations for [the FIFA World Cup Final draw] are flawless [...] to ensure an excellent television broadcast allowing us to showcase South Africa to the world, and present the country and the continent hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup in the best possible way”. For those of you who will join us for AfricaCom, he adds: “allow me to pass on our sincere thanks not only to Informa but also to the exhibitors, speakers and delegates of AfricaCom 2009 who have been affected by our request but without whose co-operation this would not have been possible”.
For my part, I am happy that AfricaCom can be associated, if only in a small way, to such a big event. In particular, I’ll be looking forward to the possibility of meeting football stars in Cape Town – watch this space as we are planning special guests for our AfricaCom Awards evening!