NBA Africa and Safaricom to ignite Kenya’s basketball scene with a youth program

The expansive youth development program promises to reach more than 10,000 youth this year through regional and national junior NBA tournaments, coaching clinics, and an elite camp for top Kenyan prospects.

Oliver Ochieng

The National Basketball Association’s business franchise in Africa, NBA Africa and Safaricom, one of the largest telcom company in Africa, have unveiled a program that promises to develop budding basketball talent in Kenya through a multi-year initiative.

The expansive youth development agenda in the program promises to reach more than 10,000 youth this year through regional and national junior NBA tournaments, coaching clinics, and an elite camp for top Kenyan prospects.  

According to Adam Silver, an NBA Africa commissioner, partnering with Safaricom is part of their mission to grow the game not only in Kenya, but across Africa. 

“We look forward to creating more opportunities for young people to engage in physical activity and learn the values inherent in sport,” he states in a press statement by NBA Africa on May 28.

The launch of the program comes months after NBA Africa set up its fifth African office in Nairobi last November in addition to its subsidiaries in Cairo, Egypt; Dakar, Senegal; Johannesburg, South Africa and Lagos in Nigeria.

The NBA Africa-Safaricom program will be executed on the foundation of hosting four regional junior NBA tournaments across the country for both boys and girls aged 16 and under, culminating with a 16-team national tournament later this year.  

Junior NBA fit clinics, life-skills seminars, coaching capacity building, and an elite basketball development camp for 100 of the top high-school-age players from across the country, are also lined up. In the end, top prospects from the elite camp will get the rare opportunity to participate in NBA Africa’s other elite development initiatives on the continent and beyond. 

The end result could lead to an increase in basketball talent in elite leagues including playing for teams in the NBA league in America. Africa’s representation in the NBA has been rising over the years with 15 African players and 35 players of African descent taking part in the NBA’s 2023/24 season. The fifteen are from Cameroon, the DRC, Angola, Mali, Senegal, South Sudan and Sudan.

The partnership marks Safricom’s major involvement in basketball after successfully supporting some of the biggest sporting tournaments in football, rugby and golf.

According to Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa, the goal is to create opportunities for the youth, and provide them with a platform through which they can launch their sports careers.  

“We do this because we are Kenya’s biggest supporter and are led by our purpose of transforming lives.  We look forward to engaging with NBA Africa as we explore how to transform the lives of our basketball loving youth across the country,” he explained.

In 2017, Safricom’s collaboration with the Football Kenya Federation (FKF), led to the launch of Chapa Dimba tournament, an initiative targeting young people between the ages of 16-20 years who besides showcasing their talent get rewarded.

Chapa Dimba has grown into a robust annual tournament, covering players from grassroots to the national level. The tournament is a much sought-after event by local and international scouts looking for new, talented footballers. 

Some successful talents tapped through the tournament include Kenya Premier League (KPL) Champions Gor Mahia lead striker Benson Omalla of Gor Mahia, David Majak of Tusker FC and Jentrix Shikangwa of Simba Queens in Tanzania. Omalla is the top scorer in the 2023/2024 KPL season with 16 goals.   

NBA Africa has a robust portfolio of basketball development across Africa. In Senegal, the NBA Academy Africa is a resourceful training center for top male and female prospects from across Africa. The academy’s alumni include Gorgui Dieng who plays for Memphis Grizzlies, among others.

The NBA Africa continues with its talent development approach across the continent through infrastructure development. In April, NBA Africa alongside Africell, an Angolan telecoms company, unveiled a new indoor basketball court.

Similar courts have been launched in Nigeria through a partnership with Agence Francaise Development (Afd), in South Sudan partnering with Stanbic Bank, South Africa among others.