Central and west Africans came away smiling Saturday after an announcement that the Africa Cup of Nations would be hosted by Cameroon in 2019, followed by Ivory Coast in 2021 and Guinea in 2023.

The losing bidders were Algeria and Zambia.

"If you look at football today, west Africa is the part of Africa that dominates football –- it's fair enough for them to be rewarded," said Lambert Feh Kesse, chairman of the steering committee for Ivory Coast's bid to host the biennial Confederation of African Football (CAF) showcase.

The announcement came during a press conference at the African Union (AU) headquarters in Ethiopia's capital city Addis Ababa. It was a sombre affair until the host countries were announced, prompting bursts of applause and heartfelt congratulations as delegates in different corners of the room celebrated their victories.

The Guinea announcement came unexpectedly -- CAF had been expected to announce only the hosts for the 2019 and 2021 tournaments, and Guinea is currently suffering from a deadly outbreak of the Ebola virus.

CAF president Issa Hayatou of Cameroon announced that matches have been banned "until further notice" in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the worst-affected countries.

Guinea and Sierra Leone are competing in the 2015 Cup of Nations qualifiers while Liberia have been eliminated.

Ebola has claimed at least 2,630 lives in west Africa this year, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

But Guinean telecommunications minister Oye Guilavogui, who travelled to Addis Ababa to represent his country's Cup of Nations commission, said he wasn't surprised by the decision.

"We made a good presentation to CAF," he explained. "Ebola is a major challenge right now, but from now until 2023 is plenty of time to prepare ourselves to host the games."

Cameroonian delegates say they, too, are confident they will be ready to host the tournament by 2019.

"The last Africa Cup of Nations that we actually organised was in 1972," said Cameroonian sports minister Adoum Garoua, "so you can imagine how big the achievement is for Cameroonians."

CAF also announced that a new fair-play prize would be given to countries showing good sportsmanship.

It will be named after Cameroonian striker Albert Ebosse, who died last month after his Algerian club JS Kabylie suffered a 2-1 home loss in a national league match.

Ebosse was hit when an angry fan threw a piece of slate as the players were leaving the pitch and he died of head injuries in a nearby hospital.

CAF hope the fair-play prize, which will come with a monetary award yet to be determined by the executive committee, will preserve Ebosse's legacy.

"In addition, CAF's executive committee decided to launch a campaign to say 'No to violence' in African football," said Hayatou. "Details of that campaign shall be worked out at a later stage."

Morocco will host the 2015 Cup of Nations tournament next January and February, but the hosts for 2017 remain undecided.

Libya were chosen to host the 2013 tournament, then swapped with South Africa with the intention of hosting in 2017 instead. They officially withdrew last month due to ongoing security concerns, and interested countries now have until September 30 to place bids to host in 2017.

The winning country will be announced next year and due to the short preparation time, CAF are likely to choose a nation with adequate infrastructure already in place.

The 14 voting members of the CAF executive committee made their decisions for 2019, 2021 and 2023 after evaluating presentations from representatives of the bidding countries.

The committee also used reports from a CAF inspection team, led by Malian executive member Amadou Diakite, which visited the five bidding countries this year to evaluate stadiums, hotels, transport services and other infrastructure.

Source: AFP - By Jacey Fortin

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