The U.S. Consulate General Lagos in collaboration with the Organized Basketball Network (OBN) Academy launched a sports diplomacy program “Uplift African Youth Through Basketball” for 100 boys and girls aged 6-18 from underserved communities in Rivers State.
The basketball camp provided the participants an opportunity to learn from mentors, including alumni of U.S. government exchange programs, about the sport, gender-based violence, entrepreneurship, and inclusion of marginalized communities.
Speaking at the launch of the basketball camp in Port Harcourt, U.S. Consulate Deputy Public Affairs Officer Jennifer Foltz highlighted the U.S. government’s commitment to empowering youth in underserved communities with valuable life skills through participation in sports.
She explained that the U.S. Mission has organized many sports initiatives through the Sports Envoy program, which recruits passionate, articulate, community-oriented professional athletes from the United States, to connect with communities in every corner of the world, using sports as the platform, to build connections and to bridge cultural divides.
“Our sports programs are not just about sports, they are a way to engage people especially youth, on important topics. For our program today, the youth participants will learn about basketball, but also about gender-based violence and inclusion of marginalized communities. In addition, they will build their communication, leadership, and teamwork skills,” Foltz added.
Declaring the basketball camp open, Rivers State Deputy Governor Ipalibo Banigo congratulated the participants on their enthusiasm and involvement in the program and encouraged them to keep dreaming big.
She expressed her satisfaction at the hard work demonstrated by the participants and conveyed her appreciation to the U.S. Consulate and OBN Academy, a local basketball institution founded by former NBA player Obinna Ekezie, for providing mentorship to the participants.
In his remarks, Ekezie said the basketball camp will provide the girls and boys with skills that will enable them to impact their communities positively. He added that the participants will benefit from follow-on activities throughout the summer.
“Through this basketball camp, we have been able to teach important life and sports values, such as respect, discipline, overcoming adversity, combatting gender-based violence and basic entrepreneurship skills. We made a lasting impact in Port Harcourt and we are grateful to the U.S. government for the partnership,” Ekezie said.
The next edition of the “Uplift African Youth Through Basketball” will take place in Lagos in the coming weeks. The basketball diplomacy project highlights the importance of sports and education for young people and promotes dialogue, tolerance, and respect for diversity.
The U.S. Mission in Nigeria utilizes sports diplomacy as a way to build bridges and enhance people-to-people ties, as the universal passion for sports transcends socio-cultural and linguistic barriers and unites people.