NBA forms new African entity with strategic investors
The National Basketball Association (NBA) yesterday announced the formation of NBA Africa, a new entity that will conduct the league’s business in Africa, including the Basketball Africa League (BAL) – a partnership between the NBA and the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and the NBA’s first collaboration to operate a league outside of North America.
The inaugural BAL season, featuring 12 of the top club teams from 12 African countries, is underway in Kigali, Rwanda, and the first BAL Finals will be held Sunday, May 30 at 4:00 p.m.
The strategic investors include a consortium led by Babatunde “Tunde” Folawiyo, Chairman and CEO of Yinka Folawiyo Group; and Helios Fairfax Partners Corporation (HFP), led by Tope Lawani, Co-CEO of HFP and Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Helios Investment Partners (“Helios”), HFP’s investment advisor.
The investors’ expertise in a wide range of industries and established relationships with African businesses, governments and NGOs will help accelerate the NBA’s growth across the continent.
Lawani and Folawiyo will also join the NBA Africa Board of Directors, which is led by NBA Africa CEO Victor Williams and includes NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum.
The announcement was made today by Silver, Tatum, Williams, Lawani and Folawiyo, who were joined by NBA Global Ambassador and NBA Africa investor Dikembe Mutombo in advance of Africa Day, an annual worldwide commemoration of the founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) held on May 25.
“Today’s 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,” said Silver
In addition to Mutombo, additional investors in NBA Africa include NBA Legends Junior Bridgeman, Luol Deng (South Sudan), Grant Hill and Joakim Noah.
The NBA has a decades-long history in Africa and opened its African headquarters in Johannesburg in 2010. Since then, the league’s efforts in Africa have focused on increasing access to basketball and the NBA through grassroots and elite development, media distribution, corporate partnerships, NBA Africa Games, the launch of the BAL, and more.
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 initiatives such as the launch of additional NBA Academies and social responsibility initiatives that improve the livelihoods of African youth and families, including gender equality and economic inclusion efforts that the NBA and BAL announced in March
“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. I’d like to thank the entire NBA Africa team, led for the last decade by Amadou Gallo Fall and John Manyo-Plange, for the work they have done to lay the foundation for the game on the continent which has made this milestone possible.”
Folawiyo, who is Nigerian, is Chairman and CEO of the Yinka Folawiyo Group, a diversified Nigerian industrial group focused on oil exploration and production, energy trading, shipping and real estate.
HFP is a Canadian-based investment holding company focused on public and private investments in businesses that primarily operate in Africa. HFP was established in 2020 via a business combination between Fairfax Africa Holdings and the management company of Helios Investment Partners, Helios Holdings Limited.