By Robert Weaver
Updated by Morganne Gagne
African soccer is dominated by one important reality: A paucity of financial resources when compared with the dominant soccer nations of the world. The facilities and infrastructure necessary to build a soccer program are simply not available throughout most of Africa. South Africa has the largest GDP of any African nation and it is only ranked 61st in the world . The vast majority of the top-ranked soccer nations have a much larger GDP than South Africa. And South Africa is not even truly representative of African soccer. The Ivory Coast and Ghana are 157th and 143rd in GDP per capita . However, GDP cannot be considered an indicator of a nation’s soccer success. The graph below plots all African countries’ 2013 FIFA rankings vs. their GDP per capita (PPP), and there does not exist a strong correlation between the two. Ivory Coast is currently has the top-ranked national team, but it is, by no means, the wealthiest country on the continent.
When compared to the rest of the world, African soccer teams fare surprisingly well considering their lack of resources. Ivory Coast and Ghana have the lowest GDPs per capita out of all teams in the Top 25 and rank 17th and 23rd respectively . Compare that to a country like Norway, ranked 47th, despite having a GDP per capita over 30 times greater than that of the Ivory Coast. Despite the lack of organization, soccer is an extremely popular sport in Africa, and according to African soccer expert Paul Darby, African teams have “emerged as credible challengers to the pre-imminence of South America and Europe.” It has been a truly remarkable accomplishment for nations like Ghana, Nigeria, and the Ivory Coast to make an impact in large international tournaments, but the success of these national teams has done little to build the infrastructure of the game at home. Rather the successful players from these nations leave at an early age to ply their trade in Europe. The leagues of England, France, Spain and many others benefit from the talents of these African footballers, but their homelands receive very little monetary benefit. The challenge for African soccer in the future will be to find a way to capitalize on the talents of their players and reap the benefits of producing such world class talent.
How to cite this article: Robert Weaver, “The Economics of African Soccer,” Soccer Politics Pages,http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp (accessed on (date)).
 Darby, Paul. “Africa Football and Fifa: Politics, Colonialism and Resistance.” Frank Cass: London. 2002. Pg. 1