“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to unite in a way that little else does.” This quote said by Nelson Mandela resonates through the history of South Africa from the 1995 Rugby World Cup to the soccer World Cup hosted by the country in 2010. Before arriving in South Africa, I focused most of my research on the economic impact of the end of the apartheid era and the 2010 World Cup, in an attempt to connect the two major events in the country in recent memory. However, since arriving in South Africa, it is clear that the country is still in the post-apartheid era as unemployment rates have risen, education is lacking and the income disparity is as great as it has ever been. As the trip comes to an end, I wanted to explore whether the 2010 World Cup had the economic impact that many people believed it would.
While hosting a world famous event such as the World Cup would seem to have immediate and lasting economic affect for a country, this does not appear to apply to South Africa. In an article written in African Business by Tom Nevin in 2010, he notes that South Africa gained R38 billion in revenue from the World Cup while incurring a R40 billion cost expense (Nevin 63). The combination of the cost of building and renovating stadiums and the less-than-expected attendees resulted in a R2 billion loss for the country.
However, with all of these expenses the country incurred, one would think that the economy would see a boost as all of these infrastructure costs would lead to more jobs and a lower unemployment rate. However, as shown in Exhibit 1, this is not the case. The graph shows that unemployment was at its lowest in 2009, but rose steadily until the end of 2010. The unemployment rate continued to rise and is currently at its highest rate. Much of this can be attributed to the fact that while the construction industry saw increased activity during the World Cup preparations, these companies brought in workers from other countries to fill these jobs. Therefore, South Africans did not benefit much from the spike in expansion. Furthermore, in speaking with South African natives around Cape Town, it appeared that the affects of the World Cup are no longer felt. These natives consisted of colored security guards to white and black businessman and several bartenders. Almost to a person, these people felt that the World Cup benefitted Cape Town for a brief time, but was not sustainable and is no longer impacting them today.
With all of this being said, I want to challenge the notion that the World Cup had no impact or even a negative impact on South Africa. While the data may indicate that unemployment is rising and the wealth disparity is still huge, when looking at the areas that hosted World Cup games, it is impossible to ignore the positive lasting affects of the event.
After our time in Cape Town, it is clear that the area surrounding the stadium benefitted from the World Cup. The V&A Waterfront mall has grown and flourished since being built and has created lasting and sustainable jobs since the World Cup. With over 400 retail locations, the Waterfront is a huge area for tourists to spend money and creates jobs for local people to transport from the surrounding townships. Furthermore, all of the infrastructure, hotels and restaurants built for the World Cup are still thriving with tourism in Cape Town increasing. Tourism brings billions (Rand) to South Africa’s economy each year and shows signs of increasing. According to an article in the Daily South African, South Africa is experiencing a hospitality sector boom similar to the one it experienced in 2010 with many hotel brands looking to open large hotels in Cape Town, Kruger National Park and Johannesburg (Colman 2016). Furthermore, “soccer city” in Johannesburg has greatly impacted the township of Soweto. The stadium still hosts soccer matches between the two local soccer clubs, and other events throughout the year. Also according to our tour guide, when the World Cup came to Soweto, FIFA built many parks around Soweto that the children of the township still use.
While the statistics may indicate that South Africa has not progressed much since the 2010 World Cup, it is impossible to ignore the benefits of the areas that hosted World Cup events. Cape Town has seen large increases in the hospitality sector that is still thriving and providing jobs and foreign investment. Johannesburg and Soweto have benefitted from infrastructure built to transport people form the city to the stadium and other public sector projects. While South Africa is still dealing with the affects of apartheid, the 2010 World Cup seemed to create lasting and sustainable growth in the areas of the country that hosted events.
Nevin, Tom. “Was it all Worth it?” African Business, no. 367, 2010., pp. 62-63,
Colman, Michelle. “Tourism Update.” Daily South African. N.p., 1 June 2016. Web. 23 Jan. 2017.