The boom in the global sports industry has stayed on for years now, pushing its worth to between $600-700 million a year. But even with such potential, Africa is yet to tap opportunities in the sports industry.
The closest that Africa has come to hosting a major global sports event was in 2010 when South Africa hosted the FIFA World Cup. This tournament brought the continent to the attention of the world but more importantly, Africa delivered on its promise. The economic impact, debatable as has been for every mega sporting event, was showcased through the successes of the tournament.
Five years later, the first NBA Africa Game, an exhibition match was played in South Africa. This saw a display of might with a selection of NBA players of African descent playing against their counterparts from the rest of the world, a feat that was repeated in 2017 and 2018. The warm reception of the game and the celebration of African players pushed the need for more nurturing of such talent locally.
Fast forward to February 16, 2019, when the National Basketball Association (NBA) in collaboration with the International Basketball Federation and the governing body for basketball (FIBA), at the All-Star Weekend NBA Africa luncheon, made a groundbreaking announcement -- the launch of the Basketball Africa League (BAL). This is a 12-team pro league scheduled for takeoff in January 2020.
The NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, reckoned that the Basketball Africa League is an important next step in their continued development of the game of basketball in Africa. "Combined with our other programmes on the continent, we are committed to using basketball as an economic engine to create new opportunities in sports, media and technology across Africa,” Silver said in a statement. FIBA Secretary General Andreas Zagklis also said; “It is a huge joy to see our partnership with the NBA enter unchartered territory as we work together for the first time to maximise the potential of professional basketball in Africa.”
Former US president Barack Obama, who is passionate about basketball, is expected to be a big part of the league.
“Glad to see this expansion into Africa because, for a rising continent, this can be about a lot more than what happens on the court,” said Mr Obama in a tweet.
The NBA Africa League will see a rise in job creation over time, major infrastructural developments and big opportunities in sports content production and distribution. Most importantly, it will tap into the large sporting talent that the continent holds. Big brands affiliated with basketball are looking at growing their brand visibility on the continent.
Several African organisations have also been making moves towards opportunities in Sports. Basketball Without Borders (BWB) The NBA and FIBA’s global basketball development and community outreach programme has been in existence for 16 years, tapping into talent globally. Over the years BWB has partnered with Hoops 4 Hope, a Southern Africa-based nonprofit that uses basketball to advance education and teach critical life skills in communities.
The choice by the NBA and FIBA to pick Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Senegal, Morocco, Rwanda, Angola and Tunisia speaks volumes of the economies they are targeting.
According to the IMF, the fastest growing economies in sub-Saharan Africa 2019, Rwanda, Senegal and Kenya strongly feature as the steadily growing as Nigeria and South Africa, the two biggest economies struggle for a comeback from a tough 2018. Angola has also shown positive strides to the restoration of macroeconomic stability.
The writer is a Sports Economics Consultant.