Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire - Mohamed Bamba and The Mo Bamba Foundation unveiled a new basketball facility at SOS Village Abobo-Gare in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), just 10 miles from where the Orlando Magic center greeted his extended family members upon landing in Africa for the first time this week.
The facility, which began construction in April, will serve over 200 children daily with access to two FIBA-spec basketball courts and fully rehabilitated electricity and plumbing throughout the village. Construction of bleachers and stadium lighting has already begun as part of the project’s next phase, in addition to ongoing programming that Bamba will participate in on a weekly basis via video conference. Mahama Coulibaly, President of the Fédération Ivoirienne de Basket-Ball, is the lead project advisor.
“This is an extremely personal project and I’m proud of how it’s all reflected in the courts, said Bamba. “Everything down to the smallest of details represents an important part of my life, from my African roots, to my Harlem upbringing, to honoring my family who made this all possible. Mahama helped us identify some incredible local artists and architects who perfectly captured all the intersections of my heritage and I’m so appreciative for all their hard work.”
In addition to the court dedication and basketball clinics, Bamba ran a COVID vaccine awareness program alongside former Ambassador of Côte d'Ivoire to the United States Mamadou Haidara to encourage the youth in the community to get vaccinated. Bamba also participated in EducationUSA outreach, a U.S. Department of State network that promotes U.S. higher education to students around the world. His experiences growing up in a West African household in Harlem, NY before attending Cardigan Mountain School in New Hampshire, Westtown School in Pennsylvania, and the University of Texas, allowed him to paint a relatable picture of the power of education and the rewarding journey it can offer.
“I have known Mohamed’s father Lancine for a long time and it has always been a dream of ours to one day have his son come back to Africa and inspire our Côte d’Ivoire community,” said Ambassador Haidara. “Every time the Orlando Magic are in D.C., Mo has made a special effort to visit with me postgame to talk about ways to move this plan forward. We are very excited about the impact that this is going to have both locally and nationally."
Bamba also collected over 100 pairs of basketball shoes from his Orlando Magic teammates and 100 high-performance insoles from Move Insoles to donate to the Côte d’Ivoire basketball development program. Procuring shoes larger than size 12, especially for high-potential, taller players, remains a significant supply chain challenge in Africa.
“I’m not here in Abidjan to just shake a few hands, snap a few photos, and pass on through. I plan to be back next summer, and in the meantime, we’ve got weekly after-school athletic and academic programs that I’ll be involved with. This is going to grow elsewhere too,” said Bamba.
These efforts are being funded by The Mo Bamba Foundation, with additional support from donors including Najmy Thompson P.L., Bradley J. Parker, Nick Giannotti, Victor Hedman, Chris Kubasik, Tyvi Small, Dr. Ramsin Benyamin, Stephanie Gaines, Anup & Rina Patel, Michael & Lynette Ellis, Michael & Kathy Lloyd, Greer & Michelle Love, the Mincberg family, Krauthamer & Associates, MLE Law, PV365 Winery, Andy Zupsic and Omar Soliman. The Foundation is also working with the NBPA to apply for the NBPA Foundation grant, in addition to the U.S. African Development Foundation grant in order to continue to improve critical developmental resources for Abidjan youth. Additional donations are welcome and will go toward funding phase 2 of the project and ongoing programming.