The Basketball Africa League (BAL) is working with world governing body Fiba to nurture female talent and grow the sport on the continent.

The BAL is in its fourth year as a men’s tournament, with the 2024 champions set to be decided on 1 June after play-offs involving eight teams in Kigali, Rwanda. The League’s president, Amadou Gallo Fall, says that work is already being done by his organisation to boost the women’s game.

“There is a women’s club championship that Fiba is running and we built the BAL on the foundation of club basketball that Fiba used to run,” he said.

“We contribute towards investment in growing the women’s game. The foundation is laid.”

A key challenge for Gallo Fall is to expand the female talent pool across the continent. “We need to continue to support women's participation in the sport and the development at grassroots level working with Fiba,” Gallo added.

“I know the women’s game is very popular in certain countries - Senegal, Mozambique, Egypt, Mali and Nigeria.

“We want to grow the women’s game to make sure there are more countries playing the sport.” The BAL hopes to lay a strong foundation across the continent through its BAL4HER project, which aims to advance gender equity and celebrate women in the sports industry.

The body will run a five-day camp for 20 top Under-23 women’s players from 14 African countries alongside the play-offs in Rwanda with the aim to empower and develop young female athletes on and off the court. “This is a way to continue to build capacity, make the industry accessible for women and especially help them grow on their journey to becoming the best basketball players they can be,” Gallo Fall said.

“They will be mentored by elite coaches and this will be an opportunity to talk to them about opportunities and careers in sport. They have a chance to learn more about the industry and the work the BAL is doing, and we want to continue to provide those mentorships.

“That will all contribute in building this world-class league we are endeavouring to build.” Set up in partnership with America’s National Basketball Association (NBA) and Fiba, the BAL has expanded from 26 games in its first season in 2021 to 48 games this year.

South Africa held a conference for the first time this season, joining the ones staged in Senegal and Egypt. Gallo Fall hopes the BAL can eventually establish itself a top professional league rather than be a “stepping stone” to the likes of the NBA.

“This is going to be one of the best in the world in years to come,” he added. “Talent is going to emerge, develop, play here and create interest.

“We want to be very competitive in the professional basketball landscape. What we want is to make sure that young talent in Africa knows that now they have the option to be professional right here on the continent.”

The BAL has received financial backing from the NBA and Fiba, and Gallo Fall says the league must stand on its own two feet in the future. “We need to generate revenues and have to be able to sustain the league,” he said.

“We are investing heavily because we believe in the long-term outlook for the league but ultimately we want to get to a point where it is profitable.”