The President of the Toronto Raptors, Founder and CEO of Giants of Africa has said that what President Paul Kagame is doing investing in sports in Rwanda is revolutionary for the continent to move from leisure to business.
Masai Ujiri was speaking February 3, 2024 at that just concluded Rwanda Day 2024 in Washington D.C where he was among the discussants on a panel focusing on Rwanda’s development at 30, themed: “Economic Development Through Sports and Entertainment.”
Ujiri said that Africa is blessed to have President Kagame (and his family) who treat sports with importance and is changing sports sector in Rwanda from a leisure to a business.
Using an example of how President Kagame conceived the idea of building the BK Arena in Kigali following the First Family’s visit to and participating at the NBA All Star Game back in 2016, Ujiri said that Kagame has a vision of changing the sports world in Rwanda and Africa.
“That arena is the arena you saw in the video,” Ujiri said referring to a video clip about Visit Rwanda and sports eco-system and tourism that was showed on Rwanda Day.
“Visionary, Visionary and Visionary I say it again. Yes, he (Kagame) didn’t only think of that arena, he thought about the stadium, he thought about the ecosystem around it- sports business, sports medicine, restaurants, and anything you can think of- all in that ecosystem,” Ujiri said.
Ujiri was referring to the current sports hub and ecosystem that is under construction in Remera, Kigali city. These include the BK Arena, Amohoro Stadium-the largest stadium in Rwanda which is being upgraded since March 2022, will be complete in June 2024 at a tune of over Rwf160 billion and a modern in-door tennis court (near Petit Stade).
The Zaria Court project which is under way in the same area within the vicinity of BK Arena and Amahoro Stadium, as part of the Giants of Africa (GoA) basketball development project in Africa comes to complete this
These facilities are also located near the Gisementi Car- Free-Zone which has mushrooming entertainment facilities, coffee shops, restaurants and hotels among other attractions.
Ujiri said that this ecosystem has not been yet understood in Africa and it is the biggest challenge for Africa even when the continent has the best athletes in the world.
For instance, Ujiri said that there are no arenas in the biggest cities and economies in Africa from Lagos, Accra to Nairobi, Johannesburg to Abidjan.
“How is it possible?” Ujiri asked the crowd… “I want Bruce Melodie (a Rwandan singer) to go to Uganda and play in an arena, go to Tanzania to play in an arena, go to Nairobi to play in an arena,” Ujiri said.
He explained that with these activities, Africans will be entertained but also create jobs for everyone- performers, players, non-performer and non-players.
People will have work. It will create a movement, create an economy for us. It will create resources for us in an incredible way that I have seen,” Ujiri said referring to examples like the NBA franchise, NFL, College Basketball etc.
Ujiri said that Africa can benefit from the sports ecosystems which comes with everyday games, money exchanging hands, sponsorship and naming rights among others.
“We have it in Africa,” Ujiri said Africa’s biggest jewel is its people,” and this can be seen in the African talents in Europe.
In a short video presented, Ujiri said GoA has committed to building sports and entertainment venues for Africans who are demanding the places especially with the growing population and young talent is all fields.
Currently there are two modern arenas in Africa (in Rwanda and Senegal) and GoA’s initial target markets to include Accra, Ghana; Lagos, Nigeria; Johannesburg, South Africa; and Nairobi in Kenya.
Ujiri said that Africa needs more than two arenas and asked African diaspora to contribute to this cause of helping and building their motherland with the little contribution they can afford, but especially thinking big and think Africa.
“What President Kagame is doing is a revolutionary in Africa. It’s vision. It’s led a lot of us leaders on the continent to believe that it can actually be done,” Ujiri said no matter what the West says or writes about Africans.
Ujiri said that Africans in Diaspora must believe in themselves, walk tall and with confidence as a people who have the resources and the people especially that there is no limit to this if there is organization and a growing demographic in Africa.