How Obama’s backing for NBA Africa venture could boost basketball on the continent

by John Nauright, Dean, Richard J. Bolte, Sr. School of Business, Mount St. Mary’s University, and Sarah Zipp, Lecturer, Faculty of Health Science and Sport, University of Stirling

Former US president Barack Obama’s decision to invest in the National Basketball Association’s Africa venture reflects a lot about his past – his basketball playing youth and his African roots. It also signals that his future ambitions stretch beyond US borders.

The Basketball Africa League was launched in 2021 as a collaboration between the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) . The inaugural competition consisted of 12 teams from 12 different countries. The Egyptian team, Zamalek, won the first championship over a Tunisian squad.

The competition includes leading teams from national leagues who qualify for the tournament, much like international club competitions such as the UEFA Champion’s League. The Basketball Africa League competition is jointly operated by the NBA and FIBA according to the President of Basketball Africa Africa League,Amadou Gallo Fall.

Obama decided to invest, marrying his love of basketball with his desire to contribute to African social and economic development. Through The Obama Foundation, he is helping train African leaders of the future as well as to promote the continent globally.

Obama, basketball and diplomacy

Obama grew up playing basketball, winning a high school state championship in Hawaii and later playing at Occidental College in California. He played in the Senate gym during his time there and was known to have celebrities like Magic Johnson join in on his White House pick-up games.

During a campaign event for President Joe Biden last November, cameras caught Obama casually sink a three-pointer while passing through a school gym. His basketball skills earned him some street credentials as a politician, helping the brainy Ivy-leaguer seem more grounded.

Sports has historically been a useful tool for international diplomacy, a point Obama stressed in the announcement of his deal with the NBA.

He isn’t the first president to go this route. Former US president Richard Nixon used table tennis to thaw relations with communist China in the 1970s. His campaign was labelled Ping Pong diplomacy. Decades later, the US State Department officially established the sports diplomacy programme in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. The programme – which is still going strong today – is aimed at reaching out to young people in middle eastern countries. Since then, the programmes have expanded globally with a wide range of initiatives.

While Obama’s role in NBA Africa is not directly linked to US diplomatic efforts, his presence serves as a type of informal diplomacy in a region where the US has struggled to sustain a constant positive diplomatic role.

An international NBA

For several decades the National Basketball Association has been focused on expanding into the international market as a source of talent, revenue and fans. There was a long campaign to bring a Chinese star to the League which culminated in Yao Ming joining the Houston Rockets in 2002.

The NBA and its players have had a longer relationship with Africa. In 1959, the US State Department sponsored Boston Celtics star Bill Russell’s tour of West Africa. As a result of his time in Africa, Russell bought a rubber plantation in Liberia. The media praised Russell’s venture as proof of black capitalist success and his visit raised the profile of basketball in the region.

Nigeria’s Hakeem Olajawan became the first African player in the NBA in 1984, paving the way for dozens of of future NBA stars from Africa, including Manute BolDikembe Motumbo and dozens of current players.

The NBA began its Basketball Without Borders programme in 2001, beginning in Europe at the same time they were working to bring Yao Ming to the US. From 2003 it has been engaged in expanding its presence in Africa drawing on the popularity of Olajawan and others who had begun to succeed in the NBA. Since retirement Olajawan has been NBA ambassador in Africa. He also made a special appearance for Team Africa at the 2015 NBA Africa exhibition game in South Africa.

In 2003 the NBA expanded its annual Basketball Without Borders programme to Johannesburg, South Africa, not in the region where the NBA’s African players had originated, but in the most lucrative market. The NBA opened its Africa office in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2010 and continued to expand efforts across the continent culminating in the launch of the international tournament in 2021.

Presidential connection

Recently, US presidents and their families have become increasingly connected to professional sports. The difference in Obama’s case is the international scope of his engagement, showing that he sees himself playing a role outside the US.

Over the past year, the former president has increased his public presence. He joined the Joe Biden campaign leading up to the November election, released his latest book, A Promised Land, and launched a podcast with singer Bruce Springsteen. After four years of relative silence during the Trump presidency, Obama seems to be re-emerging from the shadows.

Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama, were voted the Most Admired Man and Most Admired Woman in the world in a 2020 survey across 42 countries. His popularity will surely boost the prospects for NBA Africa and expand his own brand as a global entrepreneur and philanthropist.

While the expansion of the NBA’s reach may help basketball’s growth in Africa, there is no doubt that the combination of the world’s premier basketball league with the most popular African-descended leader will do much to promote the league’s brand as well as help shape future growth of basketball on the African continent.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Africa Oil sets new plateau target for $3.4bn Project Oil Kenya – seeks partner prior to FID

Canadian junior African Oil Corp. has announced today a new production plateau of 120,000 barrels of oil per day (bopd) from Blocks 10BB and 13T onshore Kenya, up from the previous estimate of 100,000 bopd. Both licenses are located within the South Lokichar basin and are known as Project Oil Kenya, which Africa Oil Corp. intends to develop with its current partners TotalEnergies and Tullow Oil. The revised target notably follows changes in the project’s development concept in order to make it more commercially and environmentally viable.  The revised project has also reduced the overall unit cost from $31/bbl to $22/bbl, making the project more attractive in a lower oil prices environment. Africa Oil expects a gross oil recovery of 585m barrels over the life of the field following the audit of the resource position by Gaffney, Cline & Associates. Phase 1 would initially target the development of the Ngamia, Ekales, Amosing and Twiga (NEAT) fields. Future phases would eventually focus on additional exploration potential within the 10BB/13T licenses while bringing the 10BA license acreage into production. Compared to the previous field development plan, we have a more economically robust project, which I am confident is more attractive to potential new partners. Keith Hill, President & CEO, Africa Oil Corp. The new development concept notably entails a 130,000 bopd facility along with an increase of the pipeline size from 18’’ to 20’’. The three joint-venture partners still expect to submit a final field development plan (FDP) by the end of this year in order to secure a license extension. However, the taking of a final investment decision (FID) is unlikely until they have secured a new strategic partner, likely to take over Tullow Oil’s stake in the project. As it stands, the project is expected to require $3.4bn in investment, including $2bn for its upstream component and $1.4bn for the pipeline. Project Oil Kenya has in fact already produced 450,000 barrels via an early oil pilot scheme that was operational from June 2018 to June 2020. Oil was produced from the Amosing and Ngamia fields then trucked from Turkana to Mombasa. Full details on Project Oil Kenya are available in the “Projects” section within your Hawilti+ research terminal.

A plant grown in Nigeria shows potential for epilepsy treatment

by Moses B. Ekong, Senior Lecturer, The University of Uyo Epilepsy is a brain disorder that arises from imbalances of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. This disorder manifests as recurring seizure, unconsciousness and momentary loss of memory. These events are frequent and unpredictable. This is because the brain cells called neurons either overwork or are unable to balance the release of two chemicals that are vital for normal brain function: gamma aminobutyric acid and glutamate. The burden of epilepsy in Nigeria is high, with estimated prevalence of eight per 1,000 people. Adults over 55 years of age have a higher risk factor of developing epilepsy because they are more likely to have head injury, stroke or develop brain tumours or Alzheimer’s disease, which can all cause epilepsy. But epilepsy does occur in childhood too. Epilepsy is a serious condition and it can be difficult to find the right drug to treat it. Some commonly used antiepileptic drugs may show adverse effects. Most are expensive, and some may be ineffective. There’s therefore a need to explore new alternatives. A plant that grows in Nigeria shows promise as the source of a new drug. Tetrapleura tetraptera also known as aidan and uyayak, is a tree found in the West African rainforest belt. It is single-stemmed and about 30 m in height. Its fruit, the most utilised part, is green when unripe, dark red-brown when fully ripe, and 22-27 cm in length. This fruit gives a characteristic aromatic odour, making it a sought-after spice in some Nigerian dishes. Some traditional medical practices, as well as research reports, piqued our interest in its potential in epilepsy management. Our research into the plant found that an extract of its fruit could protect against seizure and prevent brain degeneration. It could therefore be studied further for the development of a new antiepileptic drug. What we did To test the plant’s properties, we induced sustained seizure in laboratory animals and gave the fruit extract to some of the animals. We gave a standard antiepileptic drug, sodium valproate, to another group of animals. Approval for the study was granted by the Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences Ethical Committee, University of Uyo, Nigeria. All recommendations and protocols involving handling and care of the animals by the National Research Council of the United States of America were strictly adhered to in our research. The aidan extract prevented the manifestation of seizure just like the sodium valproate. Epilepsy causes brain cell degeneration. But we found that aidan protected the animals’ brains against degeneration better than the sodium valproate. Neurodegenerative diseases cause the brain and nerves to deteriorate over time. They can change personality and cause confusion. They can also destroy brain tissue and nerves. We found useful properties in the plant’s phytochemicals – the compounds it produces. Phytochemicals, also called secondary metabolites, are the active constituents of such plants. These include tannins, phenolics, saponins, alkaloids, steroids, flavonoids and terpenoids. Metabolites help the body to withstand stress, overcome cell injury and fight against germs, among other functions. The ratios of these phytochemicals to one another determine the unique properties of plants. Aidan is rich in phenols, alkaloids and flavonoids; these phytochemicals are responsible for the antioxidant properties of plants known to protect against metabolic stress. Metabolic stress often leads to a spectrum of disease conditions. Aidan is also a source of calcium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc and vitamins. This makes the plant very useful nutritionally and medicinally. What next? Our findings are important as the potentials of this plant can be explored for antiepileptic drug development. As a natural product, it does not only possess antiepileptic activity, it has numerous constituents that may also serve as alternative medication or an addition to medications in other related disease conditions. Clinical trials of either crude or pure samples can be undertaken for anti-epileptic drug development as a first phase of clinical utilisation of the plant. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.