Featured image by CAFOnline.com

The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) began on Jan. 13 and will last until Feb. 11 in Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast). It’s being held across six stadiums in five host cities: Abidjan Bouaké, Korhogo, San Pédro, and Yamoussoukro.

This event has emerged, not just as a football tournament, but as a transformative force shaping the future of the sport in Africa and reverberating its impact worldwide. The 34th edition of AFCON has already proven to be a game-changer, catalyzing significant shifts in the landscape of African football and leaving an indelible mark on the global stage.

A game-changing sporting event

According to Africa Sports Unified (ASU), an organization focused on pan-African sports, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) predicts over 800 million people worldwide will tune in to the matches. In its 2023 report, ASU provides a comprehensive analysis of the tournament’s impact on sports, economics, and culture in Africa.

The report provides an exclusive look into the commercial and media partners, venues, and host cities. An analysis on social media and the evolving landscape of fan engagement showed that there is untapped potential to enhance usage on all platforms, build a community, seek commercial benefits, and encourage action. 

Tourism and entertainment plus the increased global reach and extensive media coverage will contribute to the economic growth in Côte d’Ivoire and the Continent as a whole. Culturally, African football fans go all out in native attire, national colors, painted faces, dance moves, and expressive chants. We’ll see lots of this at AFCON 2023.

Cameroonians cheer on their football team during the semifinal match between Cameroon and Egypt at ACON 2022.
Photo credit: Xinhua/Kepseu (Cameroonians cheer on their football team during the semifinal match between Cameroon and Egypt at the Africa Cup of Nations in Yaounde, Cameroon, Feb. 3, 2022.)

The biggest impact to note is the 40% increase in prize money for the tournament winner, runners-up, semi-finalists, and quarter-finalists. Using TransferMarkt as ASU’s data source, the report even breaks down the numbers of African managers compared to foreign managers, as well as the number of teams who were managed by African coaches at the recent 2022 Qatar World Cup. This evidence demonstrates continental competency when provided the opportunity. 

“AFCON 2023 is not just a celebration of African football; it’s a testament to the continent’s growing stature in the global sports industry,” said Gabriel Ajala, Founder of Africa Sports Unified. 

AFCON 2023 timeline

Overall, there are 24 national teams divided into six equal groups. From Jan. 13-24, the group stage matches will determine which 16 teams advance to the next round, which will be from Jan. 27-30. The quarterfinals of eight teams will be on Feb. 2-3. The advancing teams will have a few days of rest until the semifinals on Feb. 7 followed by the third-place match on Feb. 10. The last two teams standing will battle on the pitch on Feb. 11 for the final match.

Who’s playing?

One of the key elements that sets AFCON 2023 apart is the heightened level of competition. So far, the tournament is witnessing a remarkable display of skill, passion, and sportsmanship, captivating fans around the world.

  • Group A: Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, and Nigeria.
  • Group B: Cape Verde, Egypt, Ghana, and Mozambique.
  • Group C: Cameroon, Gambia, Guinea, and Senegal.
  • Group D: Algeria, Angola, Burkina Faso, and Mauritania.
  • Group E: Mali, Namibia, Tunisia, and South Africa.
  • Group F: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Morocco, Zambia, and Tanzania.

The defending champions, Senegal, are off to a good start after winning their first game against Gambia, 3-0, on Jan. 15.

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Seven fans spell out "Senegal" and are painted with team colors for AFCON 2022.
Photo credit: Pierre René-Worns (Fans from Senegal spell out the team name).

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AFCON 2023 is a catalyst for positive change, propelling African football to new heights and inspiring a generation of players and fans. The transformative impact of AFCON 2023 is not confined to the boundaries of the pitch but extends far beyond, shaping the future of football in Africa and influencing the global perception of the sport on the continent.