The Future is Now: Sentiments on Football Governance in Africa - Part 2

28 March 2023



Sports Business

(Part 1 of this article can be viewed here)


Developing and Implementing a Successful Policy


In developing a vision and strategy, you are not expected to get everything right; perfection is not the expectation. However, your decisions are supposed to be guided by the duty of care and responsibility of loyalty as a custodian of the game of football on the continent. As a member of a Standing Committee, your appointment would, or should, be based on your experience and knowledge, and you must provide opinions and reports that can be used to fulfil the organisation’s vision and development objectives.


My suggestion to those appointed to the CAF Standing Committees for the next two years is to use the first year to develop foundational work for the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to make African football world-class, while maintaining its African spirit. The short-term plan (“STP”) would first focus on developing and instilling a culture of excellence, Ubuntu (unity) and global best-practices within ourselves and our actions. Let us leave the spirit of being divided in the past but remain cognizant that we are identified as one when our failures are noted (Africa is a country).


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Dambisa argues that the most effective strategic plans generally combine the very broad and the very specific. At a board level, you need to be able to define your mission before organisations management and, in football, the fans as well. You must then be able to decide the specific operational metrics and financial performances by which the mission will be measured against. You need to be able to ask yourself, “what is African football’s place in the global football ecosystem, do we have adequate benchmarks with which to measure our success and growth?”. This decision must be based on balancing the immediate issues you need to solve, all while keeping an eye on the larger strategic goals and decisions. How do we want the future to turn out?


My personal belief, and one shared with others, is that the fiduciary duty of a board member of a football organisation is greater than that of a board member in a for-profit company – who is accountable to shareholders. As a football fan, I can’t choose my country of birth, so I support my country when they play; the clubs we support are based on either geography, familial heritage, or the love of the brand of football. That is an emotional investment that I cannot just brush off like money lost on the stock market. Therefore, your responsibility is safeguarding the fans’ emotional investment that extends and manifests itself in financial investments, seen in the purchasing of tickets and club merchandise. It would be of great importance that you protected the fans’/investors’ interest in football.


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Eliminating the Scourge of Corruption


Football’s greatest asset is its integrity. Without integrity, the game of football is meaningless. It is your duty to implement or ensure the implementation of FIFA’s approach in the fight against any forms of manipulation and unlawful influence/interference in football matches. This means promoting integrity, internally and displaying this to the public at all times. Integrity must not only be done but seen to be practised through transparency and accountability.


Unfortunately, the history of African football governance is characterised by misgovernance, corruption, and a lack of transparency. I say history because I hope you will make it a thing of the past. In Chapter Three of her book, Dambisa gives a guide as to what can be a revolution. I believe that football serves a higher purpose beyond entertainment in an African context and arguably the world. Football has a broader societal mission, and the words of Nelson Mandela encompass this: “[Football] has the power to change the world. It has the ability to inspire change. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to the youth in a language they understand”.


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It is your responsibility now to take up the challenge of changing the African football administration landscape, so that it matches the continent’s Objectives and Principles, as reflected in the CAF Statutes. CAF has taken the first step of putting its principles in writing. It is now the duty and responsibility of governing bodies and standing committee members to embed these values, embody them, and act accordingly. The real task is to get the new culture of excellence and unity to permeate through the multiple layers of your organisations and the African football community. The best way to do this is to lead from the front. It is not enough to speak of principles, but you must live by them. Once you have defined what it means to be a world-class organisation, you must live by those standards. Every single minute of every single day. No excuses.


The Need for Innovation


The final aspect I will be looking at is discussed in the last chapter of Dambisa’s book. As a board member and custodian of African football, you must be actively involved and innovative. This is not a static concept. The chapter in Dambisa’s book is aptly titled “Innovate or Die”.


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Football as a form of entertainment is facing threats for the attention of the youth from other forms of entertainment that may not have been in existence 5-10 years ago. Technological advancements require engaging platforms that make fans feel like a part of the football community and have a voice. Innovation and adaptability are not only limited to technology, as Dambisa notes. As football custodians, we live in a generation-Z, world that is socially conscious, and who and what we associate ourselves with now matters more to young fans. The experiential factor matters more and more in the purchasing decisions of consumers.


As we scramble for sponsorships, we need to be aware of the issues like sportwashing. Do the people and entities we are associating ourselves and our brand (football) with share the same values as those of football? A society free from discrimination against a country, person or group of persons, be it on the grounds of ethnicity, gender, handicap, language or religion.


Installing the Pillars Necessary for Success


Your responsibility as a board member can be summed up into three main domains of decision-making: strategy, leadership and culture. Any decision you make must be geared towards the board’s ability to deal with these three areas and ensure that football remains competitive and entertaining in the long term.


I believe the journey before you is a half-marathon, and not a sprint. There will be the temptation to move fast and eliminate the old hierarchical framework that is slow to adapt. Dambisa calls it a “cultural revolution”; I believe that a better way in the African football context is to embark on a “cultural evolution”. The proper approach is not to move fast, but to move correctly. Expedience usually comes at the cost of procedural correctness, which will have us quickly circling back into the quagmire of misgovernance that we are currently trying to leave behind. Remember, forward always, always forward.


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There are deep structural issues that need to be dealt with for the long-term sustainability and development of African football. It is the role of Standing Committees to deal with these issues. I agree with Dambisa that it is not enough for only the Standing Committees in a governing body to look at and deal with the problems. If a cultural shift that will result in the development of African football into a world-class brand is to be implemented, these discussions and strategies need time at every board meeting to change the role of boards from rubber-stamping Standing Committee recommendations, to deliberating on the long-term decision making around investment, strategy, goal attainment, and operations.



The task ahead is a huge one. However, I believe that it is entirely possible. There is a saying in my mother tongue, “Rume rimwe harikombe churu” (One man cannot surround an anthill). The proverb means regardless of your strength or intelligence; you cannot accomplish everything on your own. No man is an island. It is used to counsel someone who has failed to accomplish a task single-handedly on the benefits of seeking advice and assistance from others. It can also be used to prevent someone from making the mistake of tackling a task that requires others to assist.


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We must work together in unison for the betterment of African football. Working together means getting even those not directly involved in football to lend a helping hand. African music has conquered the world through Salif Keita, Fela Kuti, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Miriam Makeba and more recently Burna Boy, while remaining true to their “Africaness”. African football can do that. If we all work together, it should make the achieving of our goals seem as easy as scoring into an open net. 

- Authored by Francis Makonese, with editorial work by Shane Wafer And Nick Flowers