JOHANNESBURG - The NBA believes that a recalibration of its operations in Africa, will allow for bigger economic growth, an expansion of development initiatives and provide even more opportunities for young talent to emerge from the continent.
The National Basketball Association, announced Monday that it was refining its NBA Africa office, making it into an organisation that NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver valued at US $1-Billion, based on initial partnerships and future growth for the body and the many entities under it in Africa.
One of those is the Basketball Africa League, that is currently being played in Kigali, Rwanda and will conclude this weekend.
NBA Africa has already signed partnerships with “Tunde” Folawiyo, Chairman and CEO of Yinka Folawiyo Group a Nigeria conglomerate with interests in energy agriculture, shipping and real estate and Tope Lawani, Co-CEO Helios Fairfax Partners Corporation (HFP), a private equity investment firm.
While the NBA already has offices, in India, China and Europe, perhaps with the exception of the latter, no other region provides as much opportunity for growth, nor has the kind of depth of untapped talent that Africa has. Silver highlighted how in the current NBA season, 55 players either born in Africa or who have a parent born in Africa, were currently playing in the League. While there are more European players in the NBA, those players start off from a base with a much stronger infrastructure, particularly for players from Eastern European countries situated in the region once known as Yugoslavia.
Africa’s infrastructure is still very small by comparison. As the NBA Africa’s CEO, Victor Williams pointed out on Monday, there’s just one formal academy in Senegal, the organisation’s head office is in Johannesburg, and there are really just two, up-to-standard, arenas on the continent - one of those is hosting the BAL - that can host an NBA game.
Through the recalibration formalised on Monday, the NBA hopes that will change. “Unlike China for instance, in Africa we find that there is already a tremendous amount of high level basketball being played,” said Silver.
“This (initiative) allows us to have a laser-like focus on what Africa needs.”
The initiative will look to drastically accelerate the growth of the sport. “We have two arenas on the continent, we will have more because of the private equity partnerships we are trying to build,” said Williams.
The fact that the NBA has hosted three exhibition events, featuring some of its leading stars from the United States and Africa, led to the building of the 11 000 seater facility in Kigali, which matches any arena that hosts NBA games in the United States
“By establishing more offices in other countries on the continent, we can accelerate our development initiatives both at the junior and elite level. It will also allow us to be in close contact with potential equity partners, and through that will allow for significant expansion of all our basketball development initiatives.”
The legendary Dikembe Mutombo has also backed the re-organisation of NBA Africa, along with well-known former players like Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Grant Hill. Those former players will provide their playing expertise to NBA Africa, while Mutombo and Deng, have more intimate knowledge on the ground of how to assist in accelerating the initiatives, the organisation is seeking to implement.
As for the one-billion dollar valuation, Silver said it was a valuation based on the optimism the NBA sees from potential partnerships across the continent.
“With the way media operates nowadays we see opportunity for growth for basketball in Africa, making it one of the top sports on the continent.”