Ugo Udezue is a Nigerian and a former basketball player who featured for Wyoming basketball. He was lured from his home country to the United States by a scholarship. He studied Public Relations, majoring in Advertisement and Communications at Wyoming where he continued to play for the basketball team. After ending his college basketball career due to injury, he became an NBA agent for BDA Sports, one of the most respected sports agencies worldwide.
As an agent, Udezue’s clients included big NBA names like Andre Roberson, Nenê, and Festus Ezeli. However, he gave up ‘living the American dream’ and returned to his native Nigeria.
Udezue told The Undefeated that returning home was the best thing he has ever made in his life. “It’s surreal. Like a dream. If someone asked me four years ago if I was moving back to Africa, I would have said no,” he said.
“But I’m home. And most importantly for me, I’m building an industry that never existed before. We’ve created jobs. We’ve created opportunities in just over a year of being in existence,” he added.
The entrepreneur was instrumental in the establishment of the Africa Basketball League. He told Aljazeera that he returned home with the idea of starting a continental Basketball championship. According to him, this was inspired by the talent on the continent and the fact that some top NBA players trace their roots to Africa.
“I came back to Africa with the idea of starting a continental league that would match the NBA,” the 43-year-old said. “All the best sports talent comes from Africa, even the likes of LeBron James can trace their lineage back to the motherland (sic).”
Besides showcasing the talents on the continent, Udezue noted that he wanted to prove that the continent was viable for business and that Africans will spend on products that are of high quality.
It was during the creation of the African Basketball League that he began his next business venture. He founded Africa for Africa Sports (AFA Sports), which has now grown to become one of the top merchandising and apparel companies in Africa. The company’s tagline “This is ours” reflects Africa’s community living culture. According to Udezue, he chose the tagline because he wants the continent to own the company.
“After we started the basketball league, we couldn’t get any shoe sponsors, apparel sponsors or even basketballs,” Udezue said. “That’s how AFA Sports got created.” AFA Sports began by making the uniforms and basketball shoes for the CBL and then the Nigerian national team.
Unlike other African apparel companies that outsource production, Udezue manufactures its products in Lagos, Nigeria. According to him, the decision to manufacture in Nigeria paid off when the coronavirus pandemic brought the global supply chain to a halt.
“With the majority of international airspaces closed at the time, importation was at a standstill so we got very popular because we were the only ones producing and selling affordable sports apparel locally,” he said.
AFA Sports employs over 800 people since it was launched in 2016. What is more, Udezue plans to hire an additional 2,000 staff by the end of 2021.
This year’s Tokyo Olympics will see AFA Sports kit the Nigerian National Basketball Team. Also, the sportswear company kits teams in more than five African countries, in addition to sponsoring different football leagues.