February 20, 2024

The recently concluded Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), a month-long soccer tournament held in Côte d’Ivoire, proved to be more than just a sports spectacle. Dr. Master Matlhaope, the General Secretary of the Association of Evangelicals in Africa (AEA), visited Abidjan during the tournament and characterized it as “a demonstration of unity, careful planning, and a global meeting point.”

Aside from the games, Côte d’Ivoire, with an estimated population of 25 million, grapples with significant socio-economic hurdles. Classified as a low-middle-income nation, it ranks 171st out of 188 countries on the Human Development Index, with nearly half of its population living below the poverty line. The country has faced periods of civil unrest, including conflicts in 2002-2007 and post-election violence in 2010-2011, resulting in loss of life and displacement of hundreds of thousands.

Alassane Ouattara, President of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, expressed the nation’s sentiment in a post on X, stating, “Ivory Coast are African Champions! ….thank you to the people of Côte d’Ivoire and to all those who made this CAN of hospitality such a resounding success!”

Reflecting on the tournament, Dr Matlhaope said, “I listened to the official song during the opening ceremony of AFCON and was taken by its words that say we are gathered in Côte d’Ivoire to celebrate life as a family. These words are serious statements that resonate with what AEA stands for: the unity of the continent. We should build on this oneness; all Ivorians and Nigerians are celebrating this oneness, and all nations who participated in the competition are celebrating the unity of their countries.”

“But now we need to look beyond football. The world and AEA have seen the potential of Côte d’Ivoire. It takes both governments and the faith sector to collaborate, to work together. Not only is the Church focused on the spirituality of its followers but also on the holistic ministry. Where there is no peace, God is concerned, and the Bible says, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers.’ Where there are orphans, the Bible says God is the Father of the fatherless. Where there is poverty, the Bible says those who take care of the poor are partners with God.”

“We have had close to 2 Billion people watching AFCON globally. We should be proud as Africans and the next one will be even better,” CAF President Dr Patrice Motsepe said. “The success of Africa depends upon Africa working together, trading together, and in football, countries competing and playing together.”

Dr. Matlhaope commended Cote d’Ivoire for hosting the competition successfully, garnering international praise for its organization. He extended special congratulations to the country’s leadership, particularly President Alassane Ouattara, on behalf of the evangelical community during an official meeting with Deputy Chief of Staff Amani Ipou Félicien at the Presidential Palace on the eve of the final. Dr. Matlhaope underscored the potential for ongoing collaboration in promoting unity, development, and peace.