Patrice Motsepe, the man at the helm of African football

Patrice Motsepe, the man at the helm of African football

By David Onjili

South African billionaire and Mamelodi Sundowns Football Club owner, Patrice Motsepe, on Friday, March 12th, was coronated as the new Confederations of African Football (CAF) President. In the colorful event held in the Moroccan capital of Rabat, Motsepe assumed office unopposed. His three main rivals, Jacques Anuoma, Augustin Senghor, and Ahmed Yahya all withdrew their candidacy just a week to the elections. Interestingly, the three will join Motsepe in running the federation in various advisory capacities.

Forbes ranks the mining magnate as Africa’s 9th richest man with an estimated wealth of $3 billion.

“African football needs collective wisdom, but also the exceptional talent and wisdom of every president of every country and member association. When we all work together with the experience, talent, and passion, football in Africa will experience success and growth that it hasn’t experienced in the past. It requires all of us,” Motsepe said at a function in February this year.

During the launch of his manifesto in February, Motsepe highlighted the need for continuous investment in both the youth and academies, to make the competition globally competitive. He also extended an invite to the private sector players to come on board to finance the endeavor, adding that governance transparency would be an excellent foundation to attract such players.

With years of investment experience as a businessman in the continent, there is perhaps nobody better qualified to attract private equity into continental.

The husband and father of three boys made history in 2008 by becoming the first black African on the Forbes list as a billionaire. In 1994, he become the first black partner at Johannesburg-based law firm, Bowman Gilfillan, after which he ventured into mining. In 2016, he launched a private equity firm, African Rainbow Capital, with a focus on investing in Africa. He also has a stake in Sanlam, a listed financial services firm that has its branch in Kenya. In 2013, he became the first African to sign Bill Gates’ and Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge, committing to give at least give half his fortune to charity.

The challenges ahead at CAF

His ascension to office comes at a time when CAF is engulfed in corruption. In November 2020, former CAF boss Ahmad Ahmad was found guilty of financial misconduct and suspended from football activities for five years. While Ahmad’s sentence was later reduced, he was nevertheless barred from vying. This is the situation Motsepe is confronted with.

Between 2019 and 2020, CAF’s cash reserves fell from $110m to $70m on increased running costs that dwarfed its income, according to a report by the BBC.

“The way to get yourself out of trouble is not to cut, because if you keep cutting you get to the bone and then you cut the bone. The recognized strategy world-wide in commerce is to grow, and you grow by making football attractive,” Motsepe said during his inauguration.

One of Motsepe’s most ambitious plans is for CAF to aid each country federation to build at least one national stadium according to FIFA standards. He is also particular about the importance of establishing soccer academies and growing youth football.

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