In early January 2024, I was fortunate enough to join President Biden’s African Diaspora delegation to Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, for the opening of the African Cup Of Nation (AFCON). It’s always very special when life comes full circle and you end up back where you started. 

I was born in Abidjan in 1987. Zone 4 was my neighborhood, and I lived there until the age of 11. I have some amazing memories of my childhood there: my school, my soccer club, my friends, and the feeling of life in the early 90s in West Africa. I returned to visit once, back in 2003, so this was a return to my homeland 20 years later, and wow have things changed! The way the country has grown, the incredible amount of construction and development, was amazing to see. I found my childhood home but could not recognize the area. No more dirt roads, imagine that! I also met some amazing leaders and had conversations about women’s rights, the LGBTQ+ community, health and wellness, and childcare and development – topics that were never really addressed years back and that are now finding their way into a civilization with strong religious ties. 


The show that Côte d’Ivoire put together as the host for this AFCON was sublime. Starting at the airport, you land and immediately feel immersed in a major international soccer tournament. The streets are decorated everywhere, the lights in orange, white and green are ever-present, and every business has something special to offer that relates to the tournament. This is the biggest international soccer tournament in Africa. The opening ceremony was one of the best I have ever witnessed. The dancing, the culture, the music, the colors, the fireworks, and the artistic touch gave nods to various aspects of the country. From a broader perspective, this tournament has brought a massive economic impact not just to the capital but to all the different sites in the country. From San Pedro to Korhogo, in Bouake and Yamoussoukro the ripple effect of this tournament was felt everywhere and will help a developing nation to continue its growth. 

Les Éléphants (The Elephants) won their opening match in a sold-out stadium, and the good vibes kicked off an incredible tournament that continues to prove the power of sports in bringing people together and helping nations grow.


One area I was hoping to see and feel more about was the support for the women’s Éléphants. With such a massive tournament and the buzz around the game, it seems like an easy avenue to continue to promote the women’s game and keep on raising awareness of its value, its athletes, and its talent. Unfortunately, as it happens way too often, the women do not benefit enough from the men’s visibility. 


In conclusion, I want to encourage people to visit Africa, and not just South Africa! As a continent, this land has so much to offer; the people wear their hearts on their sleeves, and the richness of the land will impress anyone. It is not far, it is not dangerous, and it is not scary! Just like when you visit another country, you can go to dinner, get drinks, order an Uber (called Yango), and use your cell phone with fast internet! You can navigate the city and its surroundings just fine, like everywhere else in the world. Though Côte d’Ivoire has greatly developed over the last 10 years, it is still on its way and needs more attention from the rest of the world, more tourists, more investments, and more visibility. So, no excuses, go visit!