World football governing body Fifa President Gianni Infantino Sunday re-affirmed his commitment to developing the sport in Africa.
Addressing the 32nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU) heads of state and government summit in Addis Ababa Ethiopia, Infantino said football was much more than the game.
He called on the heads of state and government support the game, adding that it was the only thing that ‘truly unites Africa’.
“Football has a massive economic impact and is a great tool for integration,’’ Infantino said at the summit, whose theme was; Refugees, Returnees and the Internally Displaced Persons: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacement in Africa.
The Fifa boss, who was among the special guests at the meeting in Ethiopia said that his ambition was to continually take concrete actions to raise the standards of football in Africa.
He disclosed that in the last two years alone, Fifa had disbursed $112 million annual for football development in Africa.
“I want to tell Africa that Fifa is here for you as your people’s enthusiasm towards the sport is unique,’’ said Infantino.
The Fifa chief commended his organisation’s partnership with the AU, hoping that it would go a long way in fighting corruption in the game, ensuring safety for players and fans, and enhancing education for greater good.
Several cases of corruption in football have been reported in Africa, with both officials, players and fans implicated.
The continent has also been the scene of several football related disasters like deadly stadium collapse, and crowd violence.
Infantino noted that Africa had over the years made steady progress on the global football arena, singling out some outstanding performances like Cameroon and Senegal reaching the quarterfinals of the World Cup in 1990 and 2002 in Italy and Korea and Japan respectively.
Further, Infantino recalled the successful hosting of the World by South Africa in 2010. The Rainbow nation remains the only African state to have hosted the World Cup.
US billionaire philanthropist and Microsoft founder Bill Gates and the World Health Organisation Director General Ethiopian Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also addressed the summit as special guests.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame Sunday handed over the AU chairmanship to his Egyptian counterpart Abdul Fattah al-Sisi.