Organisers of the 30th African Cup of Nations have done a good job to pull the tournament through, considering the short time they had to prepare, but it looks like journalists working at this competition have to bear the brunt of the fall out of Morocco’s decision to withdraw as original hosts.
From Bata to Mongomo, journalists have had to struggle to get safe, convenient accommodation, through to getting basic facility as the internet to carry out their duties.
Journalists who arrived earlier in Mongomo where Group C is based, were lucky to have access to some kind of decent accommodation, but had to pay a high rate to have it.
The hotels had overnight increased their rates by 100 per cent, while by last week Sunday, the day before the group’s opening matches, the prices had hit rocket levels.
People with accommodation to spare were also cashing in on the situation, first charging $80 per apartment per day, but revising their charges to $250 per person per night.
If one paid less than that amount but failed to secure it for a number of days, he could be asked to vacate the room as someone with a better offer had arrived.
With such demands outrageously out of the reach of most Ghanaian journalists who unfortunately arrived late, their nearest consolation had been a $100 a day rooms in Mongomoyen, about 40 minutes drive from Mongomo, while a bus with seats for 15 people charges $150 a day.
If one opted out of the group transport for a taxi, it meant it would cost $50 a day, just to move between the two towns, a distance compared to Accra and Prampram.
The daily trip from Mongomeyen to Mongomo cannot be avoided if one wants reliable access to internet as the media centre at the stadium or the lobby of the Black Stars’ hotel are the two main good sources.
The internet cafés are unreliable and very few around the town of Mongomo, none at Mongomeyen, while the hotel lobby is strictly out of bounds unless the journalists’ presence is required.
Using the cell phone to access the internet could cost as much as $30 a day, depending on the quantum of work to be done.
That leaves one with no option than to make those daily trips to the stadium to get the job done, the media centre is thus busy with activity from morning till evening.
Those who want to watch the matches from other centres have to find alternative venues as there are no television sets at the media centre in Mongomo, but two were being installed at the time of filing this report following protests from journalists.
As if that is not enough, food is also a major headache, thus some are compelled to eat gari daily or manage with snacks. There are no fast food joints, no way-side cooked food being sold, but one could be lucky to have some cassava ampesi with grilled or fried fish and black pepper (shito).
There is no gain trying to complain about the language barrier, Equatorial Guineans speak either Spanish or French, not the slightest English and to get around, a bit of expression here and there, using the translation service of some Ghanaians and Cameroonians based here and who have time to spare to get around.
In the absence of that, the sign language or the google translator if one has internet on his or her phone, is one’s surest bet, but the struggle is no exaggeration.