- Ugo Udezue is the CEO of the African Basketball League
- The ABL is currently active in four countries with a total of six teams
- "I want to cultivate all our LeBron James and our Kevin Durants here in Africa for Africa," says Udezue
Lagos (CNN)Ugo Udezue is a man on a mission
His goal is to create a sports empire to rival one of the most lucrative and successful franchises in the world; the NBA.
"I woke up one day and said, 'I have to do something,'" Udezue told CNN. "Africa has the best talent in sports, look at, even LeBron James or Kevin Durant. Their lineage is from Africa."
The former basketball player and NBA agent is now CEO of the African Basketball League (ABL), which aims to promote the sport on the continent and discover and cultivate young talent.
Finding the new LeBron James
"The motivation is more about creating an opportunity for all those kids I see that are seven foot tall walking down the streets not doing anything," he said.
"I want to cultivate all our LeBron James and our Kevin Durants here in Africa for Africa. We have the talent."
The ABL is currently active in four countries with a total of six teams, but Udezue's goal is to cover the continent.
"In the next three years we'll be in 20 countries in Africa," he continued. "We want to create an opportunity for each individual franchise and each individual city to be a whole business entity that is profitable and can create jobs."
Boosting the economy
Udezue recognizes the difficulties in building a venture like this from the ground up, particularly during trying economic times.
"We're working on a system where there is no industry," he said. "You have to find people to hire, you have to train them and you can't be forceful"
But he sees the ABL as the perfect way to boost sports-mad Nigeria's lagging economy.
"The NBA generates billions of dollars into the economy of the United States. Why can't we do that here? Everybody claims they're sports fans, [then] invest in it! It's a business," he said.
More popular than football?
Although interest is growing in basketball it is not as popular on the continent as football. Udezue is aware that building a strong fan base will take time, but he's confident it will happen.
"What we're doing is so organic, he said. "You can't just bring a product from United States or Europe and think Africa is gonna take it like that. There's so much we're capturing in this first season, I think when we get to the next season it's going to be more seamless."
"Believe in Africa. Believe and don't be frustrated with what's going on. There's going to be change, it's coming. We're going to do this here in Africa."
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