Page last updated at 13:35 GMT, Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Africans seek World Cup boost

By Bill Wilson
Business reporter, BBC News, Johannesburg

For football fans around the globe the World Cup represents 64 games of the highest quality played out by best teams and players and every continent.

Emiley Vollmer
Emiley Vollmer says the World Cup will change South Africa as "never before"

During four glorious weeks, whether in the flesh or on TV, the world stops to savour the eagerly-awaited football festival.

However for the host nation and its people the event means much more than that. In South Africa it provides the opportunity for an economic boom, and for the black community a chance to become fully involved in the commercial world.

Among those looking to win new business on the back of the World Cup coming here in 18 months' time, is Emiley Vollmer who runs Evo Media.

The South African media industry, like more sizeable sectors, such as tourism, engineering, is being offered a once-on-a-lifetime opportunity to use football as a way to access the global stage.

"The 2010 World Cup will have an impact on our society like never before," she says.

Her firm Evo is a company that specialises in new media design, visual effects design, 3D animation, web design, video-production, and post-production.

It has offices both in Cape Town and here in a huge tower block opposite from the Soccerex football business convention.

Global mission

Yet, highlighting the straits that so many of her contemporaries still live in, are the remaining squatter shacks in the township of Soweto, which has been steadily shaking off the worst of the apartheid regime.

Emiley, who was born in neighbouring - and at the time war-torn - Namibia and studied and lived in Germany, opened a studio in Cape Town in 2005.

Youths at Orlando Pirates stadium in Soweto
The Orlando Stadium in Soweto will be used as World Cup training camp
"I had the skill, international experience, and I was very passionate about doing multi-media work," says the lively 28-year-old.

"I now have the two offices here in South Africa, but my mission is to take over the globe," she jokes.

To that end the firm has also opened a small office in London.

"We design TV commercials, starting with concept development through to the final stage," she says, sipping coffee on the terrace of her modern Johannesburg office.

The firm, which employs 23 people, has secured work from Germany, Spain, Russia, and Romania - for a mineral water firm - among others.

Changing mindset

"The entrepreneurial spirit has to be instilled into the local black population of South Africa," says Emiley, who is also deputy chair person of the Cape Town film commission, looking after young film makers.

"We still need support to change the mindset to tell people 'you are capable of performing in the marketplace'.

"I am in a minority - I don't let anything put me down."

It is a new beginning - one of confidence in Africa
Liberian and African football legend George Weah
She adds: "But because people have been told for so many years to consider themselves 'small' they do not have the attitude to start their own businesses."

To this end she says that the post-apartheid policy of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), which is designed to give black people - and also women - a greater role in the economy, has been a great stimulus.

"BEE allows me to perform in the market, and not be locked out because of the colour of my skin, or because I am a woman," she says.

"Now we have the World Cup coming, and I have been hoping that it will help increase the audience for Evo Media, and bring us extra work."

Creative opportunities

But she believes that at the moment there is not enough verve about selling the tournament .

"I want to use the World Cup to communicate my company to a wider audience, and get people excited. But there is not really much vibe about it yet in South Africa.

"Of course I hope the tournament brings me more opportunities, but perhaps as a country we don't feel the magnitude of it right now."

South African team  lines up before a match with Cameroon on 19 November
Football-loving South Africa has a lot to do to get ready for the World Cup
Creating and achieving business results around the World Cup is the responsibility of people like Mandla Nkomfe, head of finance and economic affairs at Gauteng provincial government.

"The World Cup offers the opportunity for the 11,000 firms we have in the creative industries here in South Africa - film companies and others - to win wide exposure for themselves," he says.

If measured on its own, Gauteng - whose provincial capital is Johannesburg - has the fourth biggest economy in Africa, behind South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt.

It is also where the World Cup opening game and final will take place, and where the international media centre for the tournament will be based.

"The 2010 World Cup offers us an opportunity to attract investment in to our country," says Mr Nkomfe.

The South African government is investing up to 28bn rand ($2.8bn, 1.8bn) in infrastructure projects such as in stadiums, improved transport links, IT and communications.

Tourist hotels

And, although most opportunities to win contracts in heavy infrastructure work have now gone, Mr Nkomfe says there are other areas to potentially invest in the South African economy around 2010.

"The private sector is building new hotels and restaurants and other tourist facilities ahead of the tournament," he says.

Other areas for private business involvement - apart from in the creative media and tourism sectors - include infrastructure maintenance, call centres, energy, and television transmission technology.

George Weah
Football legend George Weah believes the games will be good for Africa

Meanwhile Emiley Vollmer is hoping that the potential opportunities surrounding the World Cup soon become reality, particularly in the two industries where black people are making inroads - media and tourism.

"Africans will receive increased opportunities, including those for freelancers in the media, especially cameramen and sound engineers.

"In addition advanced training will be rendered to individuals and companies to improve the quality of our broadcasting and production."

She also believes that BEE means the black African population will see their talents reach a new peak during and after the World Cup.

As Liberian and African football legend George Weah said at the close of this year's Soccerex: "It is a new beginning - one of confidence in Africa."

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