Former U.S. president Barack Obama joined NBA Africa as a strategic partner, the NBA announced on Monday. In this role, Obama “will help advance the league’s social responsibility efforts across the continent, including programs and partnerships that support greater gender equality and economic inclusion.”
In addition, the role gives Obama a minority equity stake in the new venture, which he plans to eventually use to fund Obama Foundation youth and leadership programs across the continent.
NBA Africa has several roles, including hosting the Basketball Africa League (BAL) with teams from 12 African countries. The venture is also focused on expanding the NBA’s presence in Africa, deepening engagement with players and fans across the region and growing programs like Jr. NBA, Basketball Without Borders Africa and NBA Academy Africa. It has also launched several initiatives to prevent gender-based violence and support African youth.
“The NBA has always been a great ambassador for the United States —using the game to create deeper connections around the world, and in Africa, basketball has the power to promote opportunity, wellness, equality, and empowerment across the continent,” Obama said in the press release. “I’ve been impressed by the league’s commitment to Africa, including the leadership shown by so many African players who want to give back to their own countries and communities.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he was “honored” to have Obama on board.
“In addition to his well-documented love for basketball, President Obama has a firm belief in Africa’s potential and the enormous growth opportunities that exist through sports.”
The NBA first opened its African headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2010 and has since expanded to focus on increasing access to basketball and the NBA.
Rapper J. Cole made his debut in the BAL in May, playing for the Rwanda Patriots Basketball Club. He left after fulfilling his contractual obligation several days later.