The National Basketball Association (NBA), North America’s elite basketball competition, has announced that Rwandan lawyer and businesswoman Clare Akamanzi will become the new chief executive of its Africa business, NBA Africa.

NBA Africa oversees the league’s growth and development on the continent, as well as the organization of the Basketball Africa League (BAL), Africa’s top-tier basketball competition.

Akamanzi joins NBA Africa after spending more than six years as the chief executive of the Rwanda Development Board, during which the board signed several high-profile partnerships in sports including with the BAL, as well as European soccer giants such as Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich.

Starting on January 23, Akamanzi oversee commercial tie-ups, media rights deals, sponsorships, and community initiatives for the league, among other things, and she will report to NBA deputy commissioner and chief operating officer Mark Tatum.

Tatum said of the appointment: “Clare’s business acumen, international experience, and familiarity with basketball and the NBA make her the ideal executive to lead our business in Africa.”

“NBA Africa and the Basketball Africa League are well-positioned for continued growth, and under Clare’s leadership, we believe these initiatives will transform economies, communities, and lives across the continent. I’ve seen firsthand how sports can positively impact businesses, families, and communities in Africa, and the NBA and the BAL are a perfect example of that.

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“The NBA has done an incredible job growing basketball and the economy around it across the continent, and I’m excited about the enormous opportunities ahead to build on that momentum.”

The NBA has long sought to grow its presence in Africa, a continent where a number of its top stars over the years have hailed from.

NBA games are broadcast in all 54 African countries by broadcast giant beIN Sports in North Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa on a combination of ESPN, Canal+ Afrique, and its own NBA TV service, as well as the South African Broadcasting Corporation in South Africa.

In 2022, the league renewed its tie-up with ESPN on the continent, ensuring that over 180 regular season games every season are shown across Africa on its ESPN Africa regional arm.

This deal includes all post-season playoff and conference championship games, as well as classic games from throughout history, and localized NBA shoulder content and ancillary programming.