The Organised Basketball Network (OBN) Academy and the US Consulate-General in Lagos have developed a sports diplomacy program called “Uplift African Youth Through Basketball” for 100 boys and girls ages 6 to 18 from underprivileged communities in Rivers State.
The basketball camp gave participants the chance to learn about the sport, gender-based violence, business, and the inclusion of marginalized communities from mentors, including alumni of US government exchange programs.
Jennifer Foltz, U.S. Consulate Deputy Public Affairs Officer, spoke at the opening of the basketball camp in Port Harcourt, highlighting the government’s commitment to providing essential life skills to adolescents in underprivileged communities through involvement in sports.
She explained that the United States Mission has organized a number of sports initiatives through the Sports Envoy program, which recruits passionate, articulate, community-oriented professional athletes from the United States to connect with communities around the world, using sports as a platform to build connections and bridge cultural divides.
“Our sports programmes are not just about sports, they are a way to engage people especially youth, on important topics,” she said. ”For our programme today, the youth participants will learn about basketball, but also about gender-based violence and inclusion of marginalised communities. In addition, they will build their communication, leadership, and teamwork skills.”
Ipalibo Banigo, the Deputy Governor of Rivers State, opened the basketball camp and thanked the participants for their excitement and participation in the program, encouraging them to keep dreaming big.
She expressed her gratitude to the United States Consulate and OBN Academy, a local basketball school created by former NBA player Obinna Ekezie, for giving mentorship to the participants.
Ekezie stated in his remarks that the basketball camp would offer the girls and boys with skills that would enable them to positively impact their communities.
He went on to say that the participants will benefit from follow-up activities all 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.
In the coming weeks, the next edition of “Uplift African Youth Through Basketball” will take place in Lagos. The basketball diplomacy project fosters conversation, tolerance, and respect for variety while emphasizing the value of sports and education for young people.