Jun 29, 2022 - Sports

NFL hosts inaugural camp in Africa

Illustration of a football helmet with the continent of Africa on it.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The NFL hosted 49 athletes last week in Ghana at its inaugural Africa Camp, the league's first foray into a continent that represents a major growth opportunity.

Why it matters: Africa has 1.4 billion people but is still a largely untapped resource for the NFL.

Details: NFL Africa Camp featured players aged 16–22 who were hand-picked from regional camps hosted earlier this year. The best of them, most of whom learned football on YouTube, will join the NFL's international pipeline.

  • Teenagers (16–19) may join the NFL Academy in London, which launched in 2019 to teach and train players with a goal of securing college scholarships.
  • Older athletes (under 24) may join the International Player Pathway Program, which helps them prepare for an NFL pro day. Eagles OT Jordan Mailata, who last year signed a $64 million contract, was in the inaugural 2017 program.

The backdrop: Last year, former Giants star Osi Umenyiora — born in London to Nigerian parents — launched a program in Nigeria called The Uprise to teach youngsters football and possibly make a career of it. Three have already signed with NFL teams.

The big picture: The NFL is hoping to emulate the NBA's success in Africa, where it has built a youth academy and co-operates a 12-team pro league.

  • NBA Africa is already valued at nearly $1 billion, and the pipeline has produced gems like Joel Embiid and Pascal Siakam, both from Cameroon. 20 players with ties to Africa have been drafted since 2020.
  • Yes, but: Basketball is a much more global sport than American football, so it could take longer for the NFL to see similar results — if it sees them at all.

Zoom out: The NFL's Africa efforts are part of a larger strategy to expand the league's global presence.

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