King of the Royal Bafokeng Nation, Kgosi Leruo Molotlegi (third from right), Amadou Gallo Fall (fifth from right) and Pape Sow (second from left) were among the dignitaries who attended the launch in Dakar on Friday. Photo: Supplied
King of the Royal Bafokeng Nation, Kgosi Leruo Molotlegi (third from right), Amadou Gallo Fall (fifth from right) and Pape Sow (second from left) were among the dignitaries who attended the launch in Dakar on Friday. Photo: Supplied
Liberté 6 court in Dakar, where the first solar-powered lighting system was unveiled on Friday. Photo: Supplied
Liberté 6 court in Dakar, where the first solar-powered lighting system was unveiled on Friday. Photo: Supplied
The kids who will make use of the Liberté 6 court facility and the new solar-powered lights. Photo: Supplied
The kids who will make use of the Liberté 6 court facility and the new solar-powered lights. Photo: Supplied

DAKAR – The National Basketball Association (NBA) and Solektra International, an energy solutions company investing in economic growth and employment in Africa, have announced a new multi-year partnership to grow and improve youth basketball participation in Senegal by installing solar-powered lighting systems at outdoor basketball courts in Senegal and select African countries.

As part of Friday’s announcement, Solektra International also becomes an official partner of the new Jr. NBA Senegal League, a school-based basketball league for boys ages 15 and under.

Former Senegalese NBA player Pape Sow attended the launch event, along with His Majesty, the King of the Royal Bafokeng Nation, Kgosi Leruo Molotlegi, at the Liberté 6 court in Dakar, where the partners unveiled the first solar-powered lighting system. 

“In order to fast track the development of Africa, inspire the youth and provide sustainable jobs across the continent, solar energy and innovation are critical,” said CEO of African Development Solutions (ADS) Group, Solektra International and Akon Lighting Africa, Samba Bathily.

“We are looking forward to working with the NBA to empower our youth by providing access to renewable energy in communities.” 

“Solektra International shares our belief in the power of sport, and basketball in particular, as a conduit to positive social change,” said NBA Vice President and Managing Director for Africa, Amadou Gallo Fall.

“By installing state-of-the-art, eco-friendly lighting systems and launching a new Jr. NBA league in Senegal, we hope to provide more children with the opportunity to learn the game of basketball and its values, including teamwork, integrity, respect and leadership.” 

The King of the Royal Bafokeng Nation, Kgosi Leruo Molotlegi (second from right), made the trip to Dakar for the unveiling of the new lighting system. Photo: Supplied

“It’s an honour to be involved in the Jr. NBA League in my home country,” said Sow. “There are so many talented kids with a passion for basketball in Senegal, and I look forward to engaging with them ahead of the first season.”

The Jr. NBA Senegal League will feature 30 boys’ school teams from Dakar and Thies competing for the league championship.

Each school team will represent one of the 30 NBA teams and will receive corresponding NBA team-branded jerseys for their games.

The Jr. NBA Senegal League will be supported by Solektra International and the Senegalese Basketball Federation.

The Jr. NBA, the league’s global youth basketball participation programme for boys and girls, teaches the fundamental skills as well as the core values of the game at the grassroots level in an effort to help grow and improve the youth basketball experience for players, coaches and parents.

During the 2016-17 season, the NBA engaged more than 18 million youth through its basketball participation efforts, with Jr. NBA programmes in 53 countries.

How the Liberté 6 court looks during the day in Dakar. Photo: Supplied

The Jr. NBA Senegal League is the NBA’s 12th Jr. NBA programme in Africa and builds on similar initiatives in Cameroon, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Uganda and South Africa.

In May, the NBA and SEED Project, a non-profit organisation based in Thies that uses basketball as a platform to engage youth in academic, athletic and leadership programs, announced the official opening of The NBA Academy Africa.

An elite basketball training centre in Thies for the top male and female prospects from throughout Africa, The NBA Academy Africa is the first of its kind on the continent.