With this week’s release of Clint Eastwood’s film Invictus, many are wondering if football really does have the impact to be a ‘force for good in Africa’ as it seems to have had in 1995 apartheid South Africa.   The BBC conducted a survey in which they included two historical examples in which football has had an impact on the political, military, and government agencies in Africa and then asked for readers opinions on the importance of the sport.

Ethopian Football Fans

Here are four responses from individuals in various African nations.

“Football, like anything else, can be a focre for good or ill.Off the pitch, its influence to a large exent is positive.In Liberia for instance ,during the civil war when the nation had nothing to look up to,people like George Weah and his team mates through football gave his compatriots the invaluable gift of HOPE for the future.Something to cheer and live for.In Ghana a good performance of the national teams as happened in Egypt 2009, and Germany 2006 helps in calming the political space,

Kojo, Accra , Ghana”

Yes I believe in Africa Football can change Africa. The most important feature with football is its ability to bring people together because of one cause. Africa has many tribes and ethnicities but with football all this is put aside and people celebrate as one. This has been witnessed in Uganda. Its also through football that resources in the dark continent can be discovered and utilized.

kagga Louis, Kampala Uganda”

“Football is the only language that Cameroonians speak in unison. This is a complex country of about 245 ethnic groups, each with its own language and culture. Plus, politics has polarised Cameroonians to the extent that some citizens canot bear to see their fellow country men eye ball to eye ball. But when it comes to football, we are one: enemies become friends. The government is so much aware of this that it can seize advantage of a football mach and raise fuel prices without any qualms.

Austin achunkwe, Buea, Cameroon”

Football can’t change africa for better neither can 8s improve any segment on the continent.since 1930 we heard of football history we having seen d impact football had made cuz we only know of millionaries footballers n having seen any estates of these highly paid soccer legeed.we cheer them everyday but they r not willing 2 give 2 their respective country.footbal had only change our mind from stress and an unhappy spirit.we don’t ve an academy of sport in africa.football made us 2 b happy

Jefferson G Togba, Monrovia, Liberia”

The Coke Coast

November 19, 2009

Historically, the countries of West Africa have fallen victim to exploitation from international explorers, colonizers, or businessmen, wanting everything from goods to slaves. And now, little seems to have changed as the countries of West Africa, most notably Guinea-Bissau, begin their fight against a new industry: cocaine, an industry with a global price tag of $70-billion.

South American drug cartels are now using West Africa as a stop over for drugs on their way to Europe after finding it difficult to find direct routes.  The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that an average $7 billion worth of cocaine has been trafficked through this region of the world since 2005, more than the country’s GDP.

And the country of Guinea-Bissau seems to be the main target for drug traffickers.

In an interview with TIME in Bissau in 2007, a high-ranking West African military officer who asked not to be named said Guinea-Bissau’s government and military allowed drug traffickers to operate “not because of a lack of resources but a lack of political will.”

Earlier this year the president was murdered in a coup, leaving the country in a power vacuum that seems to fueling the lucrative cocaine industry.

“Rivalries over control of narcotics trafficking may be at the heart of the schism between military and the presidency,” said Jonas Horner, Africa Associate of the Eurasia Group in Washington in a statement also published in the same TIME’s article.

The U.N. launched a $50-million effort this year to train and outfit West African police, beginning with Sierra Leone, but in an article by the Los Angeles Times, Rudolfo Landeros, the senior police advisor to the U.N. in Sierra Leone, said,

“You’re never going to stop the drug flow through West Africa.  But we have to take a stand somewhere….”

And according to one U.N. report he might be right.

“West Africa has everything criminals need: resources, a strategic location, weak governance, and an endless source of foot soldiers who see few viable alternatives to a life of crime.”

And as Al- Jazeera English points out, even if the drug traffickers are arrested or convicted there is nowhere to put them.

“The country’s only jail was destroyed during the civil war about 10 years ago and an official from the justice ministry takes Al Jazeera to a run-down house that now serves as a prison.  About 20 men live here in cramped, filthy conditions, sharing a single toilet and sleeping on the dirty floors. The house is in the centre of Bissau, with very little security, so escapes are common.”

While little of the drug actually stays in the country, it is already having far reaching effects for the community.

The Global Post states,

“The consequences stretch as well to the slums of Guinea-Bissau, where crack-fueled prostitution is driving a new AIDS epidemic in a region where even basic health care is beyond the reach of many — and where young people turning to the drug trade become the unwitting soldiers of organized crime.”