The euphoria surrounding the coming FIFA soccer World Cup in South Africa is beginning to be felt in Zimbabwe and africa as a whole.
Most people cannot wait for June to see the stars of the world’s biggest sporting event parade their talent in Africa.
Apart from the spectacle of soccer, the event promises to be a major opportunity for many economies especially in Southern Africa.
Such are the high economic stakes that almost every country in the region is getting ready to slice its share of the cake.
But for Zimbabweans and the country, it’s now or never.
While other countries are positioning themselves to reap rewards from the soccer event, nothing serious seems to be coming out of the country to show that we are ready to eat the cake.
No soccer teams have confirmed that they will camp in the country and this might be a recipe for disaster to our economy.
The Zimbabwe soccer team failed to qualify for the tournament, meaning Zimbabweans will be supporting other teams.
Apart from this, most Zimbabweans will be forced to watch the matches on television as they will not be able to afford the tickets — some going for as much as US$900.
Faced with such a sad scenario then what difference will this country be to say Afghanistan that will follow the event on television and literally gain nothing economically?
Afghanistan is thousands of kilometres from South Africa while we are a driving distance from where some of the games will be played.
It is obvious that we will have ourselves to blame if we fail to take this once in a lifetime opportunity to benefit from the soccer event.
For our generation this must be a history-making event to be recited to our grandchildren generations to come.
In fact we must count ourselves lucky that such an event will be held close to our country as this might be the last opportunity for the majority of us.
If FIFA goes ahead with its policy of rotating the hosting of the event among continents, then Africa will only get another chance in 2034.
While some of us might survive to see the year, it is obvious and highly likely that countries from the northern parts of the continent are strong contenders to host the event.
Realistically, unless something changes, the likely countries to go for such a bid will be Egypt, Morocco and maybe Algeria.
While these are pure African countries, there is likely to be nothing other countries in the continent will benefit from their hosting of the World Cup.
The countries fall in the Mediterranean region, same as a number of European countries.
This basically means that European countries might prefer to camp in their own countries in preparation for the cup.
Other countries outside Europe might as well prefer to camp in Europe in preparation for the event.
Not only that but supporters do not need to come to Africa as they can take just a few hours to fly from their countries to the match venues.
So realistically if the next African World Cup is hosted in the Northern parts, then economically the southern parts of the continent might not record meaningful economic benefits.
If the system of rotation continues, realistically, another soccer World Cup that Africa will host that we may benefit from will be in 2058.
And by this time, maybe more than half of this generation will have passed on.
That is why Zimbabwe and the rest of the Southern African region must take advantage of this rare opportunity to market the country and lay a long-lasting foundation to their economies.
For Zimbabwe our main bet is on tourism and players in the sector will be judged harshly if they fail to tap this opportunity.
What is worrying is not only the marketing strategies but the lack of serious and tangible developments that seem to support that we are getting ready for the windfall.
A number of hotel groups that promised to refurbish and expand their operations are still where they were or some have gone worse.
The bottom line is that if we fail to harvest meaningful returns from this event, then we might as well forget about reviving the country’s tourism.