The soaring budgets of major international sporting events are not confined to the Olympic Games. The Games of La Francophonie, much more modest in size and program, are also being hit. And without mercy.
Almost three months after the closing of the last edition of the sporting and cultural event, organized from July 28 to August 6, 2023 in Kinshasa, controversy is brewing in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) over the real cost of the Games. According to the Minister of Finance, Nicolas Kazadi, it was almost seven times the initial budget. Initially set at $48 million, the final figure came to $324 million.
Inflation is said to have affected all sectors of the organization. The works, at the top of the list, but also the more operational part. This was due to delays in the construction and renovation of the competition sites and the athletes’ village, long considered irremediable, and the fear of losing the organization of the event.
Nicolas Kazadi explained: “The operations budget has risen from $12 million to $78 million, while capital expenditure has increased from $36 million to $246 million. The time required to organize these Games has increased from a few months to around three years, revealing planning and management errors.”
As a reminder, the Games of La Francophonie had initially been awarded to New Brunswick, but in January 2019 the Canadian province announced its decision to give up, citing a lack of budget. The DRC then applied to host the Games, scheduled for 2021. The health crisis, followed by delays in preparations, postponed the event twice, first to 2022, then finally to 2023.
For the Congolese Minister of Finance, the delays in the work and the double postponement of the event do not explain everything. Nicolas Kazadi points the finger of blame at Isidore Kwandjia, the director of the organizing committee.
The director signed payment orders for certain beneficiaries whom he had planned to recruit himself, without having the necessary budgetary provision, which shouldn’t happen,” he explained. We are in the process of prioritizing payments according to need. Those who have actually worked will receive their due. But we can’t accept that management is being carried out in a light-hearted manner.”
Isidore Kwandja was quick to respond to the finger-pointing. He assured us that the organization’s management had been rigorous, transparent and judicious. He pointed out that all financial operations had been supervised by the Inspectorate General of Finance (IGF). Above all, he contested the figures reported by the Minister of Finance.
“We are surprised to learn on social networks that the cost of the Games has reached 324 million dollars, whereas the initial budget was 66.9 million euros, which we have not yet received in full,” he said on his X account (ex Twitter). Where did these funds go and who managed them? If the budget has exceeded forecasts, the reasons must be sought elsewhere, and not within the national Games management, which has maintained rigorous management.”
Who’s telling the truth? At this stage, it’s hard to say. But Isidore Kwandja has admitted it on several occasions in the months leading up to the event: the DRC has pulled out all the stops to complete the work on time. An urgency to finish that has undoubtedly cost them dearly.
The head of the organizing committee also confided that he had to dip into the coffers to meet the demands of certain foreign delegations. At the request of France and Wallonia-Brussels, we had a new surface for the athletics track flown in,” he revealed to FrancsJeux last July, just a few days before the opening. It cost us 2.3 million dollars. Only to learn that France and Wallonia-Brussels would not be sending any athletes…”
The only certainty is that the legacy of the Games of La Francophonie 2023 is already a reality in the DRC. Since the end of the event, the country has been awarded the right to host the African Women’s Handball Cup of Nations in 2024. It is also an official candidate to host the 14th All-Africa Games, scheduled for 2027.