New NBA league marks growing US influence in African cultural markets

The NBA announced last month that it would launch the Basketball African League (BAL), marking another step forward for American commercial influence in African markets.

Why is this important: china development major infrastructure projects in Africa is often cited as evidence of the country’s dominance in its economic rivalry with the United States. But the United States continues to make gains in the creative industries on the continent, as entertainment, media and sports become increasingly important to Africa’s young, urban and increasingly connected population.

Context: BAL’s announcement comes after decades of NBA involvement in Africa. Since 2003, the NBA has held Basketball Without Borders events, its premier community development and outreach program, across the continent, and in 2017 opened the NBA Academy Africa in Senegal to train elite male and female hopefuls.

What they say : In a statement on the BAL, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the league is “committed to using basketball as an economic engine to create new opportunities in sports, media and technology across Africa”.

The big picture: The NBA is not the only American company seeking to tap into Africa’s growing media and entertainment markets. In December, Netflix has announced its plans to invest in original series from Africa, and in February it announced its order for a South African series for teens titled “Blood & Water.”

The bottom line: The BAL is an investment in building American goodwill in African countries and could herald future American-African partnerships in sports and entertainment.

Aubrey Hruby is a Senior Researcher at the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center.

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