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The NBA to conquer the African continent

SPORT BUSINESS OBSERVATORY – Thanks to its providential star, Mr Stephen Curry, the Golden States Warriors won the 2022 NBA title. What if, thanks to Joel Embiid, France became Olympic champion in 2024? For the moment, the Cameroonian NBA superstar has taken administrative steps to be selected for the Blues. The case of the Sixers pivot raises the question of the development of basketball in Africa, a continent steeped in talent and fans, 2 key elements and many others (finally) taken into consideration by the NBA.

Félix Indaye is a retired professional basketball player who joined the ranks of the American university championship, graduated with a Master 2 in Marketing of the sports offer and a Bachelor in International Commerce, he is a specialist in the commercial exploitation of products jock. Article written in collaboration with Damien Conrad, Aymeric Mercier and Antoine Frisch, ISEM students | Kedge BS.

In 2019, the Basketball Africa League (BAL) was created in collaboration with the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the International Basketball Federation (FIBA). The competition is divided between 12 teams from 12 different countries which are divided into 2 conferences (Sahara and Nil), which resembles the American system. At the end of these 2 competitions, the 4 best teams of each conference compete during the Final Four in Kigali, Rwanda.

An NBA interest in the African continent that goes beyond the field

With 73.2% African-American players in the franchises’ 2021/22 rosters, the potential “ talent of Africa appears to be sporting evidence. The question has long been whether this region could become an axis of economic development.

Share of African-American players in North American franchises by sport. Statistics

In fact, the continent has recently been able to take advantage of its resources and foreign investment to become an attractive market. In recent years, a diversified economy has enabled the emergence of the middle class, thereby stimulating demand for consumer goods, services and luxury branded products. Rising consumer demand, coupled with nearly 8% annual growth, boosted Africa’s GDP by around US$1.1 billion in 2019. However, some risks remain, such as the lack of infrastructure, poor governance, uncertain security and unreliable logistics. Fortunately, the conflicts are more localized, democracy is well established in some regions and a positive and dominant trend is emerging.

Consumption capacity in Africa rests on five key pillars: rising middle class, population growth, youth dominance, high-speed urbanization, and rapid adoption of digital technologies. According to the French Development Agency, by 2050, Africa will have nearly 2.4 billion inhabitants, half of whom will be under 25 years old. Young Africans, a large part of the emerging middle class, will yearn for greater choice of food, consumer and leisure products as well as greater connectivity.

The evolution of the GDP of the richest countries in Africa. Statistics

According to a study by the World Bank, the sports industry should experience growth of more than 5% in the medium term and young people are at the heart of this dynamic. Another consulting firm, IEG, points out that the NBA generally achieves revenues of more than 8 billion dollars a year, with viewers enjoying the combination of sports, fashion and music. With the largest free trade area in the world, the African continent is embarking on a radically new path of development which will be able to exploit the potential of sport, which today represents 2% of world GDP, and only 0.5% of that of Africa.

For more than 10 years, Africa has been building halls capable of accommodating tens of thousands of spectators, notably in Egypt with the Cairo Stadium (16,000 seats), in Senegal with the Dakar Arena (15,000 seats), in Angola with the Kilamba Arena (12,000 seats) or in Rwanda with the Kigali Arena (10,000 seats). “ These rooms will obviously be used to host the BAL competition in the years to come, and even some transport infrastructure is being prepared to connect these different countries in order to facilitate access to the competition for spectators. “says Edwin Eslem, director of communications at NBA Africa.

The Dakar Arena has a capacity of 15,000 seats. BALL

In addition to these new infrastructures, Aïcha Diop, Marketing Director of the Basketball Africa League explains that around the stadiums, “ there are spaces to set up a fan zone, with a stage where performers perform every day. And if it’s not artists, it can be schools, or a meeting with celebrities “.

In 2021 during an interview, the president of the BAL Amadou Gallo Fall, explained to us how basketball was a vector of economic development for Africa. “This is essential to be able to sustain the Basketball Africa League project. If we believe in the entertainment product, we believe just as much in the impact that this league will have on the ecosystem of sport in Africa. We want to create a basketball industry that generates employment, in particular via infrastructures and venues such as the Dakar Arena, the Kigali Arena or the Kilamba Arena. A multitude of activities will develop around these basketball games and sectors such as catering, hotels, transport, security, media and logistics will benefit. It is also the opportunity to show another face of Africa.»

4 strategic pillars to develop an African elite

The ambition of the BAL is to create the conditions for the emergence of a sustainable basketball economy. To ensure its success, it is essential to develop the talents made in africa » by supporting African federations in their professionalization, by collaborating with governments (infrastructure, reforms, etc.) and by attracting key partners (companies, media, agencies, foundations, etc.). In order to affirm its ambitions and make them a reality, the objectives of the BAL can be grouped into four axes, as follows;

Obviously, sports development is the most legitimate. Indeed, FIBA ​​Africa has always invested in the fundamental development of Basketball by establishing processes and foundations that today allow the NBA to be able to build more simply. The role of federations is to create a robust ecosystem, allowing local players to flourish and prosper in their country. Creating competitive and professional competition, developing local federations, improving the ecosystem and keeping talent in Africa, these are the main axes of their strategy.

It is also a socio-cultural development, with, for example, the partnership with the AFD which will use basketball to defend social development on the African continent, in favor of underprivileged communities. As part of AFD’s support for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), this partnership aims to advance access to education, well-being and inclusion for girls and women at all levels of society.

But also the development of BAL’s reputation as a major international basketball league. The BAL tends to establish the NBA culture in Africa after having conquered Asia and Europe. This process notably involves numerous sponsors such as the Jordan or Nike brands and the involvement of opinion leaders such as former US President Barack Obama.

Finally, the development economic with the infrastructure that has been put in place, the stadiums and halls are intended to be the sports venues for their resident clubs as well as for major sporting events. They may also be capable of hosting a wide range of non-sporting events depending on their configuration (surface of the playing area), their modularity, their additional spaces and prior arrangements. According to Julien Lepron, customer experience and site consultant, eight main sources of income allow venues to maximize their activities: ticketing, hospitality, merchandising, snacking, sponsorship, services, non-match stadium activities, leisure activities. Around these sources of income, there is the development of skills and therefore the training of local executives.

In addition, it is essential for the BAL to develop its partnerships around activations that highlight their partners to the public. “ For each partner, we always do an event, it’s not a simple event where people meet to discuss, the goal is to set up activities that are aligned with the objectives of the partners explains Aïcha Diop.

Africa is therefore a strategic and reasoned choice for the NBA, which is betting on a continent in full economic expansion, new and developing infrastructures, as well as a young, dynamic and growing middle class population which will have as its center of interest basketball, vector of socio-economic development. The ambition of the BAL therefore sees beyond basketball with a strong extra-sports vision, and we can certainly think that it will be a great success as their strategy and their objectives have been developed by the best players in the market.


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