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Basketball Africa League
As legendary NBA teams the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons face off at Accor Arena in Paris on Thursday, it's a chance to recall the crucial role that sports can play as a veritable motor of sustainable development. The links between sports and development have been thrust to the fore thanks in part to AFD’s partnership with the NBA and its Basketball Africa League (BAL). Here’s the score on sport and development, in four points.

This article originally appeared in May, 2021 and was updated on 19 January, 2023.

1A Global Sports and Development strategy

AFD adopted a new and innovative approach when it launched the Sports and Development Strategy in 2019. It contributes to AFD Group’s “100% social link” commitment to "sports for all," which encourages equal access to sports with special attention to gender equality.

  • The goal is to bring people from sustainable development sectors together with the sports world. It’s part of a broader policy pursued by French President Emmanuel Macron, focusing on sports as a new aspect of AFD’s cooperation with developing countries, notably in Africa.
  • AFD has formed a partnership with the NBA as well as with other world-famous sports organizations such as FIFA and the Olympic and Paralympic committees, with a number of international tournaments on the horizon, including Paris 2024 and Dakar 2026. 

2   A Pioneering Partnership with the NBA 

AFD is a pioneer in forming links between the world of donors and major players in international sports. When President Macron signed the partnership with the NBA on the African continent in 2018, one of the goals was to help open up new horizons for sports and development in Africa. 

  • One objective is to promote education through basketball by pooling innovative resources: the NBA’s expertise in basketball and AFD’s expertise in sustainable development. Under this partnership, we have launched a program for awareness and education through basketball in five African countries.
  • The “Basketball Experience” (BE) program for example, launched in Morocco, uses basketball to teach life skills and raise awareness about development issues in the region. The program also teaches Moroccan children about gender equality and citizenship. In Senegal, the growing discourse about sport and development and other activities are paving the way to the 2026 Youth Olympic Games in Dakar. And in 2022, the BE program will be launched in Kenya and South Africa – home to NBA Africa headquarters.

3 With BAL, Basketball and Development go hand in hand in Africa 

AFD announced its partnership with the Basketball Africa League on May 5, 2021. AFD will be an official partner for the league’s first season. BAL is the first professional basketball league launched by the NBA outside of North America. 

  • As part of its partnership with the NBA and BAL, AFD is promoting the “Sports in Common” platform, a Pan-African initiative aimed at using sports as a tool for economic and social development in Africa. The platform also highlights promising initiatives that help young Africans build skills and find opportunities. Based in Dakar, the Sports in Common initiative supports and finances sports projects linked to development and social cohesion.   

4 Sports and Development: Beyond the BAL 

Beyond these initiatives, AFD also finances local projects steered by African partners using basketball for educational purposes, and which raise awareness of sustainable development issues. For the past two years, calls for Sports and Development projects have enabled AFD to finance more than fifty micro-projects, several of which are tied to basketball in particular.  

  • The SEED Academy in Thies, Senegal, promotes basketball as a place for shared living and learning for young people, and quality education through the Academy.
  • Activities at Enfants du Bénin Debout (Rise up, Children of Benin), led by basketball player Ahmed Taoufik in Benin and the Central African Republic, are aimed at increasing awareness of environmental protection and parasports – sports for people with disabilities. 
  • The Rwandan association Let Us Stay Alive promotes wheelchair basketball as a tool for social integration of disabled persons.

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