The National Basketball Association (NBA) on Tuesday, July 27 announced that former President Barack Obama had joined NBA Africa as a strategic partner.
President Obama will help advance the league's social responsibility efforts across the continent, including programs and partnerships that support greater gender equality and economic inclusion. In this capacity, President Obama will have a minority equity stake in the new venture, which over time he intends to use to fund Obama Foundation youth and leadership programs across Africa.
NBA Africa conducts the league's business in Africa, including the Basketball Africa League (BAL), which held its inaugural season in May featuring 12 of the top club teams from 12 African countries.
NBA Africa is focused on expanding the NBA's presence in priority African markets, deepening the league's engagement with players and fans across the continent, and continuing to grow Africa's basketball ecosystem through programs like the Jr. NBA, Basketball Without Borders (BWB) Africa and NBA Academy Africa. In addition, NBA Africa has launched several Social responsibility initiatives aimed at raising awareness of gender-based violence, supporting girls' education, and improving the livelihoods of African youth and families.
"The NBA has always been a great ambassador for the United States-using the game to create deeper connections around the world, and in Africa, basketball has the power to promote opportunity, wellness, equality, and empowerment across the continent," said President Barack Obama.
"By investing in communities, promoting gender equality, and cultivating the love of the game of basketball, I believe that NBA Africa can make a difference for so many of Africa's young people. I've been impressed by the league's commitment to Africa, including the leadership shown by so many African players who want to give back to their own countries and communities. That's why I'm proud to join the team at NBA Africa and look forward to a partnership that benefits the youth of so many countries."
"We are honored that President Obama has become a strategic partner in NBA Africa and will support our wide-ranging efforts to grow the game of basketball on the continent," said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. "In addition to his well-documented love for basketball, President Obama has a firm belief in Africa's potential and the enormous growth opportunities that exist through sports. NBA Africa will benefit tremendously from his engagement."
"We have ambitious growth plans for NBA Africa and having President Obama join our efforts is a recognition that through sport, Africa can take its rightful place on the world stage," said NBA Africa CEO Victor Williams. "We look forward to working with President Obama and our strategic investors to use basketball as an economic growth engine across the continent and as a platform to improve the health and wellness of one of the world's youngest and fastest-growing populations."
Strategic investors in NBA Africa include a consortium led by Babatunde "Tunde" Folawiyo, Chairman and CEO of Yinka Folawiyo Group, and Helios Fairfax Partners Corporation (HFP), led by Co-CEO Tope Lawani. Additional investors in NBA Africa include NBA Legends Junior Bridgeman, Luol Deng (South Sudan), Grant Hill, Ian Mahinmi (France; ties to Benin), Dikembe Mutombo (Democratic Republic of the Congo) and Joakim Noah (ties to Cameroon).
The NBA has a decades-long history in Africa and opened its African headquarters in Johannesburg in 2010. Since then, the league's efforts on the continent have focused on increasing access to basketball and the NBA through social responsibility, grassroots and elite development, media distribution, corporate partnerships, NBA Africa Games, the launch of the BAL, and more.
The inaugural BAL season was broadcast to fans in 215 countries and territories in 15 languages. On May 30 at Kigali Arena, Zamalek (Egypt) defeated US Monastir (Tunisia) 76-63 to win the first BAL Championship.