United States President Barack Obama attends the game between the Chicago Bulls and the Cleveland Cavaliers on October 27, 2015 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.
Gary Dineen | National Basketball Federation | Getty Images
Former President Barack Obama has become a strategic partner and minority owner in the Africa business of the National Basketball Association, which oversees the Basketball Africa League.
The NBA launched its Africa unit in May and values the deal as a $ 1 billion company. NBA Africa oversees the BAL, which held its inaugural season last May, and has investors like Dikembe Mutombo, Grant Hill and Junior Bridgeman. The League said Obama would use his share of NBA Africa to fund the Obama Foundation’s youth and leadership programs across Africa.
The terms of Obama’s involvement were not disclosed.
Under the leadership of CEO Victor Williams, NBA Africa aims to build corporate partnerships, expand content and media rights, and support local governments in building new basketball arenas. The BAL includes 12 teams and league games broadcast in 215 countries and territories, and the NBA sees basketball as the top sport across Africa in 10 years.
There are currently 55 players, either from Africa or whose parents are African by birth, in the NBA. Team owners see the BAL as a way to discover and develop talent in the fast growing continent and another way to increase their global appeal. Sports betting partners could also test new technologies in the league.
Nigeria-based industrial conglomerate Yinka Folawiyo Group and Helios Fairfax Partners Corporation, an investment holding company that trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol “HFPC”, are investors in NBA Africa, alongside former NBA players Luol Deng and Joakim Noah also investors. In addition, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and NBA Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum have seats on the board.
Benjamin Chukwukelo Uzoh 2nd R of Rivers Hoopers of Nigeria vies with Wilson Nshobozwa of Patriots Rwanda during the opening game of the first ever Basketball Africa League BAL in Kigali, capital of Rwanda, on Jan.
Cyril Ndegeya | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images
“The NBA has always been a great ambassador for the United States – it uses the game to create deeper connections around the world, and in Africa basketball has the power, opportunity, wellbeing, equality and empowerment across the continent,” said Obama in a statement. “By investing in communities, promoting gender equality and cultivating a love for basketball, I believe NBA Africa can make a difference for so many young people in Africa.”
Obama praised the “NBA’s commitment to Africa, including the leadership of so many African players who want to give back to their own countries and communities.”
“We are honored that President Obama has become a strategic partner in the NBA Africa and will support our far-reaching efforts to expand basketball on the continent,” Silver added in a statement. “In addition to his well-documented love of basketball, President Obama firmly believes in Africa’s potential and the tremendous growth opportunities the sport offers. NBA Africa will benefit tremendously from his involvement.”