Cameroon: How CAF’s President Patrice Motsepe builds his networks

By Jeune Afrique
Posted on Friday, 21 January 2022 09:19

Patrice Motsepe during the CAN opening ceremony in Yaounde, on 9 January. © KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP

From Douala to Yaounde, CAF’s President Patrice Motsepe is taking advantage of being at the African Cup of Nations (CAN) to build up his network within the business community and the Etoudi Palace.

Patrice Motsepe has established his base at a five-star hotel recently inaugurated in Douala, from where he takes off in a private plane to supervise the progress of the CAN. The South African was seen in the company of businessman Joshua Osih, who heads the city’s branch of the Social Democratic Front (SDF, opposition) and is the former vice-president of the Cameroon Football Federation (Fecafoot).

The latter, who also runs an aeronautical services company, even boarded the CAF boss’s aircraft bound for Yaounde. Motsepe also talks business with Nicole and Gilbert Kadji – the heirs of Joseph Kadji Defosso, the wealthy founder (who died in 2018) of the Cameroon Brewery Union (UCB), the country’s third-largest brewing industry – because he loves brewers.

Castel is ignored…

Perhaps it runs in the family, because in addition to setting up a network of grocery shops during the apartheid regime, his mother managed to obtain a licence to distribute products made by the South African Breweries (SAB). Was this a coincidence?

At the beginning of January, CAF officially made UCB the exclusive supplier of soft drinks and mineral water for the CAN, for the modest sum of $565,787 (an advance of $282,893 has been paid for the moment). This greatly displeased the Société Anonyme des Brasseries du Cameroun (SABC, Castel group), the Franco-Cameroonian agro-industrial mastodon, as their offer was not even studied.

READ MORE AFCON: Plagued by scandals

In Yaounde, Motsepe is strengthening his relationship with the presidency’s secretary-general, Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh. The latter is indebted to him because CAF agreed to have the opening match be played at the Olembe stadium, even though the structure’s external fittings had not yet been completed at the time of the experts’ final visit. On 26 November, Ngoh Ngoh was in Cairo and pleaded his case at the institution’s General Assembly.

… while Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh is held accountable

His political future was at stake, as relocating the opening match would have proved his many critics right. They blamed the task force – that Ngoh had set up – for the delays in completing the site, budget overruns and suspicions of misappropriating public money. The Cameroonian is grateful that the South African pulled the country out of this embarrassing situation and the icing on the cake is that his speech at the competition’s opening ceremony was met with applause.

Whenever he visits, Motsepe always makes sure to meet up with his predecessor, Issa Hayatou, perhaps in an attempt to make the latter forget that he was unceremoniously stripped of the CAF’s leadership. On 16 January, Motsepe attended Sunday mass in an English-speaking Catholic church in Yaounde.

The foundation of the billionaire – who has a personal fortune of $2.4bn, according to The Sunday Times – donated $198,043 to the parish. Motsepe is generally happy to share his plans for the post-CAF era with some of his visitors. The plans include running for the South African presidency and taking over from Cyril Ramaphosa, who is also married to his sister, Tshepo Motsepe.

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