NBA picks top Rwandan lawyer to head Africa business

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Former Rwanda Development Board CEO, Clare Akamanzi, has been appointed NBA Africa chief executive

The National Basketball Association (NBA) has appointed Rwandan international trade and investment lawyer Clare Akamanzi as the CEO of its African business, making her the first African woman to hold the office.

Ms Akamanzi will start her new role in January 2024, taking over from American Victor Williams, who has resigned. Mr Williams is a former investment banker at Goldman Sachs, who joined NBA in 2020 and oversaw its Africa expansion.

Ms Akamanzi was the head of Rwanda’s influential investment and tourism promotion agency – Rwanda Development Board (RDB), a position she held from 2017 to September this year, and which elevated her to a member of the cabinet.

As the NBA Africa CEO, she will be tasked with overseeing the organisation’s “business and basketball development efforts in Africa and will be in charge of continuing to grow the popularity of basketball, the NBA, and the Basketball Africa League (BAL) across the continent,” the New-York based organisation said in a statement Wednesday.

NBA chief operating officer Mark Tatum expressed confidence in Ms Akamanzi’s leadership of their African division and her ability to “transform economies, communities, and lives across the continent” through continued growth of basketball initiatives.

“Clare’s business acumen, international experience, and familiarity with basketball and the NBA make her the ideal executive to lead our business in Africa,” Mr Tatum said.

“I’ve seen firsthand how sports can positively impact businesses, families, and communities in Africa, and the NBA and the BAL are a perfect example of that,” said Ms Akamanzi.

While most of her career has been in the public sector and diplomacy – including a stint at the World Trade Organisation and the office of the president in Rwanda, she is no stranger to the world of sports.

Under her leadership at the RDB, she spearheaded multiple partnerships with sports organisations, including with the NBA, BAL, and European football clubs Arsenal, Paris Saint-Germain, and Bayern Munich, in efforts to advance investment and development in Rwanda.

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