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May 25, 2021

NBA launches $1bn Africa subsidiary with prominent investors on board

North American basketball’s NBA has announced the formation of a new Africa entity which will oversee the league’s business in the continent, including the new Basketball Africa League.

By Tariq Saleh

North American basketball’s NBA has announced the formation of a new Africa entity which will oversee the league’s business in the continent, including the new Basketball Africa League.

League commissioner Adam Silver has valued the NBA Africa venture at “nearly $1 billion”, and its primary areas of focus will be to grow the sport in the region through the new pan-continental professional league and additional NBA academies.

Silver said the valuation “comes from the enormous optimism we see in this brand in Africa and our opportunity to bring content directly to the people of the many countries of Africa".

NBA Africa has already secured strategic investment to support its business efforts in the region, including from five former NBA players – Junior Bridgeman, Grant Hill, Joakim Noah, Congo's Dikembe Mutombo and South Sudan's Luol Deng.

Investment has also been secured by a consortium led by Nigerian businessman Babatunde Folawiyo, chairman and chief executive of Yinka Folawiyo Group, the Nigerian industrial group, and Africa-focused private equity firm Helios Fairfax Partners, which is based in Canada and led by co-chief executive Tope Lawani.

The NBA said “the investors’ expertise in a wide range of industries and established relationships with African businesses, governments and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) will help accelerate the NBA’s growth across the continent".

The league outlined that the funding will contribute to the growth of the BAL, help expand the NBA’s presence in priority African markets and Africa’s basketball ecosystem, and deepen the league’s engagement with players and fans through social responsibility initiatives and additional NBA academies.

The BAL is a collaboration between the NBA and Fiba, the international basketball federation, and was launched in 2019, representing the North American league's first involvement in a competition outside its home market.

The 12-team competition was due to start in 2020 only to be delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, but eventually got under way earlier this month.

Amadou Gall was named as the BAL president in 2019.

Victor Williams will serve as NBA Africa chief executive and lead its board of directors, which will also include Folawiyo and Lawani, as well as Silver and NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum.

Silver said: “This announcement is the result of many years of investment and on-the-ground work to grow the game of basketball in Africa and a recognition of the enormous opportunities ahead for the NBA on the continent. We believe that basketball can become a top sport across Africa over the next decade, and I look forward to working closely with our investors to make that goal a reality.”

Both Silver and Lawani cited the growing digital media environment in several African countries as generating more demand for content, and thus creating more opportunities for basketball programming.

The NBA already has offices in Africa, in South Africa and Senegal, but Williams said the league is aiming to have a presence across the continent.

He added: “The successful formation and funding of NBA Africa as a standalone entity is indicative of the rich history of the NBA in Africa, the power of the NBA’s vision for the growth of the game on the continent, and the strong commitment by our outstanding new partners to support that vision.”

The league has played three summer exhibition games in Africa in recent years and hopes to stage more, but there are no firm plans to stage pre-season or regular season games on the continent in the near future.

There are currently at least 55 players in the NBA with African ties, including All-Stars Joel Embiid and Pascal Siakam from Cameroon.

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