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NEW YORK: Africa offers a vast, underdeveloped market for global sport, with thousands of athletes poised to join the international ranks if only there were major investment, say industry leaders and stars.
But more government-private sector partnerships are needed to boost African sports and bring young players into top-tier football, basketball and even American football leagues, forum participants said on Monday. business.
At the side event at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver hailed Africa as brimming with sporting potential, noting that more than 10% of players in the first basketball league in the world were born in African countries or had Africans. Parents.
“Invariably more NBA, WNBA players will be discovered, nurtured, developed and then able to play at the highest level,” he said of the region’s younger generations and the benefits of expanding programs. training young people there.
Silver also pointed out that to attract the “literally billions of investments needed”, sport in Africa must be seen as economically viable.
“In order to persuade…big businessmen to invest in infrastructure, we need to demonstrate that it is a real business – that there is a real return over time,” said he declared.
The forum brought together former NBA stars like Congolese American Dikembe Mutombo, Nigerian-born WNBA sensation Chiney Ogwumike and current Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam, a Cameroonian who caught the eye of scouts. at a Basketball Without Borders camp in South Africa.
American football has also strengthened its presence. More than 100 current NFL players are African, according to Osi Umenyiora, a Super Bowl champion who leads an NFL initiative to expand the pool of new talent from places such as Ghana and Nigeria.
“From a business perspective, it would actually make sense for me to start doing business in Africa now,” Umenyiora told the audience, adding that the NFL recently opened new player camps in Africa.
The discussion accompanies the launch of the new African Super League, which holds big prizes in store for the 24 football clubs that qualify for the inaugural edition next year.
Confederation of African Football president Patrice Motsepe has said that while Africa’s link to European and American leagues is “important”, the Super League will “attract billions of dollars into football in Africa to pay for the the smartest and most talented young Africans and keep them on the continent”. .”
Recent 100m hurdles gold medalist Tobi Amusan, who in July became Nigeria’s first world champion in an athletics event, warned that the lack of infrastructure in Africa, including facilities for training, could fuel a migration of athletes.
“I’m not saying don’t go somewhere else,” Amusan, who is herself based in Texas, told AFP.
“But if the government and the private sector are implementing things like this in Africa, we keep ours rooted in our countries and don’t just make them wander to other countries.”
The head of the region’s new top-flight basketball league also spoke about the delicate balance between recruiting international players and sporting development on the court.
“Africa needs to stop being just an exporter all the time,” said Amadou Fall, chairman of the Basketball Africa League, which was launched last year.