Forbes | On Friday, South African billionaire Patrice Motsepe was confirmed the new president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) by acclamation.
The mining magnate, with an estimated wealth of $3.1 billion, was elected unopposed at CAF’s 43rd General Assembly in Rabat, Morocco, after his rival candidates for the presidency – Jacques Anouma of the Ivory Coast, Augustin Senghor of Senegal and Ahmed Yahya of Mauritania – withdrew from the race. His predecessor Ahmad Ahmad was barred from running.
In his address, Motsepe said: “I want to emphasize there is a sense of extreme urgency, a sense of urgency to get going. Part of that is clearly a need to make sure we stabilize our finances. We need to make sure that we stabilize the financial position of CAF and put it in a significantly more healthy position.”
Under the organization’s previous president Ahmad, banned from the global game for ethics violations, CAF’s finances collapsed. The confederation ripped up a $1 billion television and marketing rights deal with France-based company Lagardere Sports and a recent audit by PwC suggested that tens of millions of dollars had been misappropriated at the governing body. Between 2019 and 2020, CAF suffered a loss $40m dollars in its reserves.
Motsepe repeatedly played up his business credentials, saying that “football cannot succeed without partnership with the private sector”. The South African is the founder and chairman of African Rainbow Minerals. In 2008, he became a billionaire. Forbes recognized Motsepe as one of the 100 greatest business minds in the world in 2017. He is married to the fashion entrepreneur Precious Moloi. His elder sister is married to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
His backers have presented Motsepe as a game changer, who will take charge of a confederation long bedeviled by endemic corruption and antiquated thinking. The South African is the first CAF president from Anglophone Africa, ending decades of dominance by the Francophone block and the continent’s northern regions.
But critics argue that Motsepe’s meteoric rise in soccer administration was facilitated by FIFA supremo Gianni Infantino, who travelled Africa extensively on the eve of the CAF assembly.
In the Moroccan capital, Infantino said: “The time for talking has stopped. We must move on, and we must move on as a team: as a CAF team and a FIFA team that also includes all the confederations and associations from all over the world. You are CAF. You are FIFA.”
When Ahmad was elected in 2017, he promised reform. On Friday, Motsepe remained markedly silent on ethics, good governance and transparency. Previously, at his manifesto launch, the South African said that he wants to introduce global best practices as well as statutory reforms. But much of African soccer will be looking to Motsepe to provide a brighter and more lucrative future for the continental game.
“Do we have to cut or must we invest?” said the new CAF president at a news conference. “The way to get yourself out of trouble is not necessarily cutting until you can cut no more and get to the bone. The recognized strategy around the world is to grow. Look at the budget we have at CAF: you can’t keep cutting and cutting. We will reorganize and reposition. The significant benefits take some time. They don’t happen overnight.”