African Soccer and a Country’s Capabilities to Compete

written by Matt Andrews

I wrote a blog post earlier this week asking if an African country has what it takes to win soccer’s World Cup. Some people asked why I chose that topic—and especially why I took the time to write this longer paper about it! 

The reason is simple. I work on public policy, mostly in developing countries, where many governments try to improve their peoples’ well-being by helping their economies compete better in the world, especially for things like talent, capital, and market access (for exports). These governments are trying to develop the capabilities to compete and I am constantly asking what those capabilities are. 

Soccer gives us a window into identifying the capabilities needed to compete. Like economic policy, sport has a public good feel to it, brings nations into regular competition, and is the subject of many officials’ promises to win. So, I wondered if a view on how well African countries have been competing in soccer could help shed light on the capabilities needed to compete (in any international competition). 

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