The NFL is holding its first talent scouting camp in Africa this week and the plan is for the trip to Ghana to be the start of a sustained effort to build a foothold on the continent.
NFL International COO Damani Leech said that the league would like to host events in Nigeria and South Africa, among other countries, in the future because of the potential the league sees to “grow and develop” the game. Current and former players like Osi Umenyiora, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Uchenna Nwosu, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Kwity Paye, Roman Oben, and Mathias Kiwanuka are helping to identify players who would be good fits for the league’s International Player Pathway or academy programs while also acting as proof of the kind of talent pool that exists across Africa.
“It’s really driven by two things: there’s over 100 players in the NFL from Africa – born in Africa [or] whose parents are first generation American – so there’s a tremendous talent pool on the continent that we as a league have not actively [pursued], ”Leech said, via Leonard Solms of ESPN.com. “The second is what’s happening broadly in Africa in terms of population growth projections, urbanization projections, availability of urban technology and broadband wi-fi. All of those things make Africa a [region] that in the next 25-30 years, we think, is going to be really powerful. We want to position the league to be successful in Africa. ”
Leech said there are no current plans to hold a game in Africa, but the league’s constant desire to expand into new markets suggests that could be on the table at some point in the future if the effort to build interest in the sport is as successful as hoped.