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African Joy: A Celebration Beyond Football

By Noha Mohamed, MA Global Media & Digital Communications

The Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2023 kicked off the new year in January 2024. The football tournament is hosted this year in Ivory Coast. Furthermore, AFCON provides a space for expressing continental African joy in celebration of 54 countries coming together, united by sport.

Since 1957, AFCON has long been an event that draws millions of spectators who passionately support and root for their countries. With this history comes an array of football heritage that shapes African joy as an ontological reality. Africa has been a repeated victim of misrepresentation and reductionist depictions that portray it as a famine-plagued, diseased, and economically decaying continent. Such depictions overlook the rich cultures, arts, and celebrations of the continent’s diverse peoples. 

In the online publication Africa is a Country, writer Moradewun Adejunmobi in her story ‘African Joy: Joy in Africa’, asserts pleasure as “one of many facets of African life, and not as a spectacular exception to the norm of African humanity.” African joy is integral to AFCON. 

Opening ceremony of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations – 14 January 2024 (Credit: Taha7199, Wikimedia Commons)

In context, according to the African Federation of Football, the fixture match between Ivory Coast and Nigeria sold out at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium which holds 50,000 spectators. In 2021, AFCON garnered more than 65 million views, according to Business Day. With that said, millions celebrate AFCON with a diverse spectrum of arts, music, and dances that are characteristic of the event. 

One cannot forget Freshlyground and Shakira’s “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)” of the 2010 World Cup. Similarly, Felix Wazekwa’s “Fimbu” is a Congolese Rumba song accompanied by a gleeful dance, packed with colourful enjoyment and happiness. Just the same, Hamada Helal’s song “Amalooha El Regala”, with its percussionist rhythms became an anthem on the streets of Cairo, Egypt during the North African nation’s three consecutive wins from 2006-2010. This year’s cup’s anthem brings together Ivory Coast’s Magic System, Nigeria’s Yemi Alade, and Egypt’s Mohamed Ramadan in “Akwaba” which asserts Africa’s unity and connection. With its dynamic tunes, the song deeply validates the cheery African identity. The song has already garnered more than six million views on YouTube within one month of its release.

AFCON is an event where Africans come together, no matter where they are from, to celebrate and be happy. It is typical for an African to have a list of other countries that they support in case their country does not make it to the finals. No wonder AFCON is dubbed “the continent’s biggest party” by Maher Mezahi in Africa is a Country.

In addition to sport, food, music, and dance, Africa is often misrepresented, but should not be ignored as a leader on many fronts. According to the World Trade Organization, Africa is a hefty global economic contributor when it comes to metal alloys for automotive and IT products, vaccines, and agricultural commodities. Furthermore, AFCON 2023 is taking place at a time when South Africa sets an example in global political leadership through its case against Israel at the International Court of Justice.

“As the 34th AFCON continues, let us wholly celebrate Africa and remind ourselves of the joy she rightly experiences”

As the 34th AFCON continues, let us wholly celebrate Africa and remind ourselves of the joy she rightly experiences – with visions devoid of judgement or wrongful redaction of African reality.

AFCON is set to continue until the final match on 11 February 2024.

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