The Belt and Road News Network

China-Africa stadium cooperation spotlighted at Africa Cup of Nations

By Kou Jie, Peng Yukai
09:54, January 22, 2024 People's Daily Online

As Koffi Lopez, 46, watched a football match at Laurent Pokou Stadium in San-Pedro, Côte d'Ivoire, he reminisced about a sunny morning from his childhood. He and his friends used to play football on muddy grounds back when his nation had few football fields and no stadiums. Yet, their passion for the sport was undiminished.

"Ivorians are huge football fans," Lopez said. "With our nation poised to host the upcoming African Cup of Nations (AFCON), it's thrilling to see our youth and I'm proud to be part of this transformation."

Koffi Lopez, regional delegate of the National Sports Office in San-Pedro, stands with his Chinese colleague Shi Yongsheng, a project manager from the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), outside Laurent Pokou Stadium, San-Pedro, Côte d'Ivoire.

Lopez, along with football fans around the world, has been eagerly anticipating the start of the AFCON on Jan. 13, a major sporting event for Africa. Even more exciting for Lopez is the fact that he witnessed the construction of the Laurent Pokou Stadium during his tenure as a regional delegate of the National Sports Office in San-Pedro. The stadium, built by China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), is one of the host stadiums for AFCON.

Laurent Pokou Stadium in San-Pedro was built by China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC).

Laurent Pokou Stadium, with a seating capacity of over 20,000 and more than 2,000 parking spaces, features local cultural elements in its construction. The venue boasts a world-class field, athletic track, and lighting. CCECC also installed solar photovoltaic technology to support the country's sustainability efforts.

"Only a few short years ago, there were almost no good venues for football games. Many sporting venues, like our beautiful Laurent Pokou Stadium, have now been built across my nation. It is the pride of the Ivorians and Africa's treasure," said Lopez.

In his free time, Lopez plays football at the stadium with his Chinese friends, including 37-year-old Shi Yongsheng, the project manager of Laurent Pokou Stadium. Shi's eight-year stint in Côte d'Ivoire has deepened his appreciation for the local culture and people.

Chinese engineers and locals pose for a photo outside Laurent Pokou Stadium, San-Pedro, Côte d'Ivoire.

"Laurent Pokou Stadium has been my worksite for four years. Together with our African friends, we've turned the African football dream into a reality," said Shi.

"When the stadium was completed, 'thank you' and 'congratulations' were the words I heard most frequently from my local friends. It's not just a stadium; it's a symbol of our friendship," he added.

The construction of Laurent Pokou Stadium also spurred the development of local infrastructure, including highways, airports, and hospitals. The project led to the creation of approximately 1,000 local jobs and the training of around 100 professional stadium operators.

"I think this collaboration with our Chinese friends is quite amazing," Lopez noted. "We now have not only modern sports facilities and excellent infrastructure but also trained youth who can independently manage such projects in the future. They can take pride in having learned how to construct a stadium."

Chinese companies have built stadiums for the past six AFCON editions, held biennially. According to Global Times, China has constructed over 100 stadiums across Africa.

Laurent Pokou Stadium in San-Pedro, Côte d'Ivoire.

Lopez and his Chinese friends said they were eagerly awaiting the AFCON match on Jan. 17 at the stadium they built together, marking a joyful culmination of their collaborative efforts and pride. However, their friendship is set to continue well beyond this event.

"I've decided to visit China after AFCON," Lopez said. "I've seen China on TV, but I need to experience it myself. Having so many Chinese friends is a wonderful blessing, and I hope the cooperation between our two nations grows as much as our friendship."