South Africa’s Patrice Motsepe appears all but assured of becoming Confederation of African Football (CAF) President after his rivals Jacques Anouma, Augustin Senghor and Ahmed Yahya all agreed to withdraw and support his candidacy.
An event was held yesterday at the Palais des Congrès in Nouakchott in Mauritania, where their withdrawals from the election were confirmed.
Mauritania hosted the African Under-20 Championship final yesterday.
The agreement to support Motsepe’s candidacy had been secured in Rabat, which will host the CAF Presidential election this week.
Reports last week said Senegal’s Senghor and Mauritania’s Yahya had agreed to step aside from race, with the pair claimed to have accepted vice-president positions.
Anouma, Honorary President of the Ivorian Football Federation, will reportedly be named as an advisor to Motsepe.
The agreement was secured following FIFA President Gianni Infantino conducting an African tour, where he met with the four candidates.
Infantino has denied influencing the election, but continued to stress the importance of African unity.
"I am delighted that FIFA has been able to contribute, even if just a little, to this crucial moment for football on this great continent," Infantino said.
"The agreement reached by the candidates is a strong signal for Africa, and also for the world.
"Africa is present and is a key player for the future of global football.
"This is also a sign of unity and commitment in bringing African football to the very top level where it should be.
"A united Africa behind a concrete vision and project is stronger.
"United we are stronger.
"This is what we were hearing from the African member associations in the last weeks, so I am sure they are also very happy at this moment.
"There are some great challenges ahead, but also great opportunities, and I guarantee FIFA’s support and encouragement to fulfil them, especially in line with FIFA Forward objectives related to infrastructure investment, good governance, development and competitions."
It is claimed that a common programme is being developed, based on the initial manifestos of the four candidates.
FIFA says this will include contributions of all African member associations and stakeholders in a participatory and inclusive process.
Motsepe is the current owner of South African Premier Soccer League side Mamelodi Sundowns, who were crowned winners of the CAF Champions League in 2016.
Motsepe is the founder and chairman of African Rainbow Minerals.
He is considered to be among Africa’s richest men.
"African football needs collective wisdom, but also the exceptional talent and wisdom of every President of every country and every member association," Motsepe said.
"That’s what gives me confidence.
"When we all work together with the experience, talent, and passion, football in Africa will experience success and growth that it hasn’t experienced in the past.
"It requires all of us.
"Football has a unique contribution to make.
"The most popular players are from Africa.
"Africa has proven over and over and over again that we have God-given talent amongst the players on this continent.
"The male, youth players and the women players as well are coming to the fore.
"It’s wonderful to have good plans and ideas, it's even more wonderful to have passion.
"Our objective must be that one of the countries will win the World Cup, I think it will happen soon.
"Continuous investment in youth and academies and making competitions globally competitive will be key, we do need the private sector to get involved with financial resources.
"The commitment to improve and continue to invest is there and the governance transparency is an excellent foundation."
Senegalese Football Association President Senghor was the first candidate to withdraw from the election on Friday (March 5), with Anouma and Yahya both following suit yesterday.
The agreement effectively ends incumbent Ahmad’s prospects of a second term as CAF President.
The Malagasy official is expected to hear the outcome of his appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) tomorrow against a five-year ban from all football-related activity.
Ahmad was sanctioned by FIFA in November after being found to have committed four breaches of the ethics code, with the official also receiving a fine in addition of his ban.
Ahmad appealed to the CAS, which in January temporarily suspended the five-year ban, reinstalling Ahmad as CAF President.
He would become eligible to stand in the election should CAS overturn his sanction, but would appear unable to challenge Motsepe following the agreement announced.