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  • Writer's pictureBergs&More

AFRICA & SPORT, A MARRIAGE OF OPPORTUNITIES: THE BASKETBALL AFRICA LEAGUE












Africa, with a still largely unexplored infrastructural and human potential, could represent one of the main sports markets of the near future, with significant opportunities from an employment and socio-economic perspective. Suffice it to say that the African population is the youngest in the world, with 70% under the age of 30, and according to statistics published by the World Bank[1] set to double by 2050.

Confirming the territory’s evident potential, the National Basketball Association, the leading professional basketball league in the United States commonly known as the NBA, has recently begun to take an interest in the African market, building solid ties with the continent through the creation and development of numerous projects, including the NBA Academy Africa, the NBA Africa Games and Basketball Without Borders (BWB).

The field of technology is also a candidate to assume a prominent role in relations between the American League and the African continent, having been a subject of interest by the NBA with particular reference to Nft (non-fungible tokens, objects – even virtual ones such as videos or photos – linked to the world of sport and guaranteed in their uniqueness by registration on blockchain) and e-Sports.

The union between the NBA and Africa, supported by the opening of three official NBA offices on the continent since 2010, the last of which in February 2022 in Nigeria, culminated in the year 2019 with the creation of the Basketball Africa League (BAL), considered by many to be a momentous turning point. In fact, since last year, the BAL, which is the result of an atypical partnership between the NBA and FIBA, has entirely replaced the FIBA Africa Basketball League which, prior to 2019, represented Africa’s top-level competition.

As of today, the BAL, valued at USD 1 billion by NBA commissioner Adam Silver and the main sponsors of which are Nike, Pepsi, Air Jordan and Wilson, stands as the first league outside of North America organised by the NBA, aiming to become the driving force behind the entire African sports movement, and not just basketball.

After the first edition was held in 2021 which saw the triumph of the Egyptians of Zamalek SC led by Walter Hodge (best Bal player of the year), took place between 16 and 30 May entirely in Kigali, Rwanda, due to the pandemic, this year the format, though identical, was structured into an itinerant fashion, thus ensuring a broader participation by fans and greater media coverage of the event media coverage of the event itself, both nationally and internationally. The 38 games of Bal 2022, in fact, took place between Dakar (in Senegal, where the competition started last 5 March with 12 teams representing representative teams from 12 countries), Cairo (in Egypt) and Kigali (in Rwanda), where the final phase was held on 28 May, namely the Finals 2022, which saw the Tunisian club US Monastir prevailing over the Angolan team Petro de Luanda.

The tournament was broadcast in 14 languages and in more than 200 countries and individual territories in which the competition was usable also at broadcasting level with excellent sponsorship opportunities, also customised territory by territory taking advantage of the best technologies in terms of Virtual Sponsorship and Broadcast Sponsorship already widely used by the NBA league. In fact, the BAL Finals 2022, as well as the entire competition, were broadcast not only on numerous local channels (including ESPN, Canal+ and VisionView), but also on the American Forces Network (SFN), ESPNews, as well as on the NBA app and website, thus guaranteeing international visibility and involving fans from all over the world.

A total number of 199 media outlets were accredited to follow BAL matches on site and remotely during the group stage matches in Dakar and Cairo, and during the regular season alone, the BAL recorded more than 400 million fan interactions through its online platforms, including 66 million influencer interactions, 22 million video views, 12 million social media interactions and 4 million visits to the official BAL website.[2]

The NBA’s firm commitment to the BAL project, not only from a social point of view, but above all at the level of its economic impact, is further highlighted by the depth of some of the names involved in the project in various capacities, ranging from former NBA champions of African origin to public figures who are active within other sectors and/or influential in the economic market, such as Dikembe Mutombo, actor Forest Whitaker, Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo, strategic partner Barack Obama and Helios Fairfax Partners, an investment fund operating jointly with local enterprises.

Finally, as further confirmation of how the African territory can, and must, be considered by the international sports sector as a market of the future, also with reference to continuous medium/long-term projects and not only for single events, even if of global appeal, it is worth emphasising the steps undertaken by another American league, the National Football League, which, following in the footsteps of the NBA, has just turned its attention to Africa for the first time, organising a series of promotional events in Ghana last June.

[1] The calculations are based on data, collected in 2011, from the Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).

[2] Data distributed by APO Group on behalf of the Basketball Africa League (BAL)


From Africa e Affari, October 2022 “A passo di sport”, translated by Bergs & More

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