How China will play a key role as Gabon hosts 2017 AFCON


China is set to continue its long running policy of renovating and constructing stadiums in Africa which has been aptly termed ‘Stadium Diplomacy’. China’s numerous investments in sporting infrastructure have been so pronounced, it has earned its own Wikipedia page. Continuing with its run, China’s State Construction Engineering (CSEC) and the Gabonese government have announced the signing of an agreement for the construction of a new football ground in Gabon.

The signing comes at a strategic time as Gabon steps up preparations for the 2017 African Cup of Nations which the country will host. The new stadium, to be built in the country’s commercial nerve center- Port Gentil, is not the first time Gabon will benefit from China’s stadium diplomacy as the Asian powerhouse also built a stadium in Libreville ahead of the 2012 African Cup of Nations which Gabon co-hosted with Equatorial Guinea. The new stadium will reportedly take about 18 months to be completed and as such the proposed 20,000 capacity venue, should be ready ahead of the 2017 football tourney.

Recently, Ivory Coast announced that China will finance a new 60,000-seat stadium in Abidjan in a bid to help preparations for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations. The stadium which will be the biggest football arena in Ivory Coast once completed will see construction begin in January 2016.

China’s history of stadium diplomacy in Africa kicked off in 1970 after the completion of the Amaan stadium in Tanzania and it quickly followed that with the construction of edifices across Senegal, Moambique, Mauritania, Mauritius, Kenya, Rwanda, Niger, Djibouti, Angola, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea as previously detailed by Ventures Africa.

China’s stadium diplomacy has seen the construction of as many as 6o stadiums across the world but clearly, Africa has been the biggest beneficiary. In turn, China has grown to become the continent’s largest trading partner having deepened its ties over the last few decades. It might be Africa’s biggest football event, but there’s no doubt that the next African Cup of Nations will be heavily facilitated by China.

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