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PHILANTHROPY

Forest Whitaker Takes His Talents to NBA Africa

The Academy Award winner joins economist and author Dr. Dambisa Moyo as the latest backers of the league’s African basketball initiatives.

Academy Award-winning actor Forest Whitaker has joined NBA Africa as a strategic investor, the NBA announced Tuesday.

Whitaker, who is also a director, producer, and social activist, won an Oscar for Best Actor in 2006 for his role as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland. Five years later, he was named a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador.

Whitaker is also the CEO of the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative, a non-profit organization aiming to promote the values of peace, reconciliation, and social development in communities impacted by conflict and violence. WPDI’s Youth Peacemaker Network operates in  South Africa, South Sudan, Uganda, Mexico, and the US, while its Peace Through Sports program combines practices and tournaments with workshops focusing on tolerance, non-violence, and respect for human rights.

“I’m thrilled to become a strategic investor in NBA Africa as it plans to grow basketball’s presence across the continent,” Whitaker said.  “The game of basketball is incredibly inspirational, and my decade working in Africa has shown me how sports can be a transformative method of helping to foster peace, as well as an economic engine for socioeconomic development in areas of conflict.  I deeply believe in the league’s commitment to youth empowerment and am so excited to work alongside the NBA Africa family.”

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Economist and New York Times best-selling author Dr. Dambisa Moyo additionally joins Whitaker as a new investor.

“I have loved sport all my life and I am hugely grateful for the opportunity to support basketball in Africa at an elite level,” Moyo said.  “Basketball has a great capacity to be a positive force for communities across this amazing continent.”

NBA Africa was officially launched by the league back in May as a separate organization to run the league’s business on the continent that commissioner Adam Silver said was valued at nearly $1 billion. Other strategic investors include business leaders on the continent and former NBA stars including Luol Deng, Grant Hill, Dikembe Mutombo, and Joakim Noah. Former President Barack Obama joined as a strategic advisor in July.

“We are delighted to welcome Forest and Dambisa to the NBA Africa family,” said NBA Africa CEO Victor Williams.  “They are both accomplished humanitarians whose expertise, resources and guidance will add tremendous value to our existing investor group.  We thank them for their commitment and belief in our efforts to use basketball as an economic growth engine and as a vehicle to positively impact the lives of youth across the continent.”

NBA Africa’s Basketball Africa League, a 12-team league featuring the continent’s premier clubs, completed its debut season in June with a two-week tournament in Rwanda’s capital city of Kigali that saw Egyptian outfit Zamalek defeat Tunisian team US Monastir in the final. The BAL’s second season is scheduled to tip off in March.

NBA Africa also spearheads grassroots programs to grow the sport in the continent like the Jr. NBA, Basketball Without Borders Africa and NBA Academy Africa.

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