ExxonMobil, The National Basketball Association (NBA), Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), and Africare announced the launch of “Power Forward,” a youth engagement initiative that will use basketball to develop health, leadership and life skills in Nigeria. Nigerian native and Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon, fellow countryman and former NBA player Obinna Ekezie and three-time WNBA champion Swin Cash joined leading Nigerian government officials in tipping off the program during a two-day launch event in Abuja.
Power Forward is designed to teach leadership skills and build health awareness through a combination of classroom and athletic activities. 300 students from 10 public and private high schools in Abuja are participating in the program, with each school being assigned a coach to oversee the curriculum, guide students through lessons and monitor their progress.
The “tip-off” event held at the Government Secondary School in Wuse and the Old Parade Ground in Abuja, where Olajuwon, Ekezie and Cash joined 100 youth participants on the court for a series of basketball drills.
"Young people are the future of our country,” said Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, Nigerian Minister of Sports and Supervising Minister for Youth Development. “The Power Forward initiative will teach young Nigerians teamwork, communication and persistence—the same skills they need to grow into future leaders in their communities.”
According to Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Nigerian Minister of Finance, “The Nigerian government appreciates these kinds of partnerships that bring together the corporate world, civil society and athletics. It is a very uncommon and beautiful partnership.” She also noted the importance of sports in the country as a tool that developed the youth by “giving them integrity and instilling values to make them into the leaders of tomorrow.”
Remarking at the launch, Mark R. Ward, Chairman and Managing Director of ExxonMobil Upstream subsidiaries in Nigeria said “This is an opportunity to help young people in Nigeria develop important skills they need through an innovative community-based programme.” “Nigeria’s young people want to make a positive difference in their communities. Our goal is to provide them with the tools to do so.”
“Nigeria’s vibrant youth and sports culture makes the country an ideal place to launch this new initiative to equip tomorrow’s leaders with the skills they’ll need to thrive,” said Amadou Gallo Fall, NBA Vice President, Development – Africa. “The NBA and WNBA are committed to working with our partners across Africa to use the power of basketball to positively impact social change. Together with ExxonMobil and Africare, we will promote the core values of our game to help young people learn how to succeed both on and off the court.”
Darius Mans, President of Africare, one of the implementing partners said “Power Forward represents a new kind of partnership between three very different organizations: Africare, a non-profit development organization; the National Basketball Association, a professional sports league; and ExxonMobil, one of the world’s largest companies.” “Each organization brings unique skills to this dynamic partnership, and the sum of what we can do together outweighs what each of us could have done alone.”
In addition to the tip-off event in Abuja, the partnership will include additional milestone events in Nigeria and Washington, D.C. later in the school year. NBA and WNBA players, legends, coaches, and trainers will unite to call attention to the importance of youth empowerment and allow both boys and girls to meet positive role models. Through these events, the partners hope to raise awareness of the importance of investing in youth and galvanize new commitments for action.
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