FIFA Development Forum discusses underutilization of development funds in Africa

Chibuogwu Nnadiegbulam, AIPS Young Reporter, Nigeria
JOHANNESBURG – Africa battles limited resources in its quest to develop its football to the highest level, yet nearly half of the continent has failed to take advantage of the development funds made available through the FIFA Forward Programme.This issue was thoroughly discussed at the FIFA Development Forum for journalists of English speaking countries of Africa which was held on 29 November in Johannesburg, a day after a new FIFA Development regional office was officially opened in the same South African city.

According to Joyce Cook, FIFA Chief Member Associations Officer, “if there’s one continent with the heartbeat of football that can do so much more on the global stage, it’s this one (Africa).”

But, just as she noted further, it will largely depend on the continent’s willingness to invest in its rich potential. In that regard, Cook, who oversees the delivery of FIFA’s investment in football development, made the Forum participants understand that their job “contributes to helping us develop this beautiful game.”

FIFA Forward was launched in May 2016 with the aim of helping the world football governing body level the playing field for all of its Member Associations by investing in them, offering tailor-made support and ensuring all funds are used accordingly. It combined and replaced the ten different development programmes that existed before it.

The first cycle of the programme which will end on December 31, 2018, has seen Africa benefit from a committed investment of nearly $39 million distributed across 171 projects which are either in the implementation stage or concluded.

These projects cut across different components; infrastructure, competition, capacity building and others. The Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA) has so far benefited the most with 82 projects, while CECAFA are second with 40 projects.

In all, however, the statistics show that in two years Africa has only used a mere 32% of the available investment which amounts to $121.5 million and this is an indication that more work needs to be done in terms of encouraging the continent’s Member Associations to access the funds made available to them for the development of their football.

As soon as FIFA Forward came into existence, the funds Member Associations are entitled to increased from $250,000 per year to $1,250,000 per year. The FIFA Forward 1.0, which refers to the first cycle of the programme, provided MAs with operational costs of $500,000 and $750,000 for tailored projects.

Cook explained: “How that translates in terms of the global picture is that around two years we have supported our Member Associations in undertaking, implementing, and concluding more than 800 dedicated development projects.”

However, Africa needs to really step up. The new four-year cycle – which starts from January 1, 2019 – brings with it a 20 % increase in the development budget, it is the time to start perfecting those plans. In the next four years, operational costs will be $1,000,000 while tailored projects will be $2,000,000 but the funds will not be accrued for the next year or the next cycle.

Nineteen Member Associations have failed to access their funds in this two-year cycle and it was surprising to see a country like Nigeria in this category. But FIFA Director Member Associations & Development for Africa and Caribbean, Véron Mosengo-Omba, explained that the reason why Nigeria is yet to access its funds is because it is under restriction.

He further stated that: “Some of them (the MAs) are not qualified for many reasons. They do not provide the documents or the documents provided are not correct. Most of them do not ask. They do not send in their applications.”

Cook added: “We understand that politics is in football and sometimes the leaders change and the persons in the associations may change but if we are going to really develop football we need a stable, smart, capable administration.

“What we are doing now is that we are starting to have capacity building process and workshops that are looking at all the different components so we are working very closely with the Member Associations in that respect at the moment. We are managing some specific infrastructure workshops. How do you plan an infrastructure? Some of them (the Member Associations) have never done this before and it’s complicated … and if you don’t have expertise in your organisation, where do you get the expertise from?”

Hence the Development Committee has made it their responsibility to help MAs understand “the components, the requirements and the cheques and balances they have to undertake” in order to benefit from the FIFA Forward Programme, while also seeking the help of the media to further “motivate our members to invest these funds”.

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