GAME CHANGERS: Success Stories of Nigerians in African Sports Business

GAME CHANGERS: Success Stories of Nigerians in African Sports Business

Pulse Sports Team 10:36 - 04.04.2024

In every corner of Africa, Nigerian entrepreneurs, visionaries, and trailblazers have left an indelible mark, leveraging their passion, expertise, and innovative spirit to shape the future of sports commerce.

From sports management agencies to sponsorship deals, broadcasting rights to merchandising, Nigerians have demonstrated their prowess and acumen in navigating the complex terrain of the sports industry, changing the game and setting the space.

From the pulsating rhythms of the football fields to the exhilarating courts of basketball, Nigerians have not only excelled as athletes but have also carved out a significant presence in the business side of sports across the continent.

These success stories are not just about financial gains or corporate triumphs; they reflect the resilience, determination, and ingenuity of a nation deeply rooted in the love for sports and the pursuit of excellence. They symbolize the power of dreams, the triumph of ambition, and the limitless possibilities that await those who dare to envision a future where sports transcends boundaries and unites nations.

As we embark on this journey to explore and celebrate the achievements of Nigerians in African sports business, let us be inspired by their stories,  learn from their experiences, and reaffirm our commitment to fostering a vibrant ecosystem where talent thrives, opportunities abound, and Africa's sporting potential knows no bounds.

In this article, we explore the prominent figures, the Game Changers, as we call them, who have been making impacts in the Nigerian and Global sporting industry.

Trailblazer in Sports Management

Amos Adamu

A prominent Nigerian sports administrator, boasts an illustrious career marked by his steadfast dedication to the advancement of sports both within Nigeria and on the international stage. Throughout his tenure, Adamu has held esteemed leadership positions within various national and international sports organizations, leaving an indelible mark on the landscape of global athletics.

Notably, he served as the Director-General of the National Sports Commission of Nigeria, where his visionary leadership played a pivotal role in shaping and implementing impactful sports policies and programs across the nation.

Additionally, his influence surged higher across national borders, as he served with distinction as a valued member of both the Executive Committee of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and the FIFA Executive Committee. In these capacities, Adamu tirelessly championed the cause of African representation and development within the realm of international football governance, advocating for equity, fairness, and inclusivity in decision-making processes.

His enduring legacy underscores his unwavering commitment to the promotion of excellence, integrity, and unity within the global sporting community.

Mary Onyali

A revered figure in Nigerian athletics, epitomizes the intersection of athletic prowess and administrative acumen. Renowned as a retired sprinter of remarkable talent, Onyali's enduring legacy cut across her achievements on the track, as a 5-time Olympian, winning bronze medals on two occasions, alongside other triumphs at the commonwealth games, world championships and many more remarkable accolades. As a seasoned sports administrator, she has played a pivotal role in shaping the landscape of sports management and development in Nigeria.

Holding esteemed leadership positions within prominent Nigerian sports organizations such as the Nigeria Olympic Committee and the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, Onyali has been a driving force behind initiatives aimed at fostering the growth and excellence of Nigerian athletes.

Furthermore, her unwavering commitment to promoting sports education, youth empowerment, and gender equality has left an unfading mark on the Nigerian sporting landscape. Through her tireless advocacy efforts, Onyali has effectively raised awareness about the critical need for investment in sports infrastructure, coaching, and talent development, thereby laying the foundation for a more vibrant and inclusive sporting community in Nigeria. Her legacy serves as a testament to the transformative power of athletics in driving social change and fostering national pride.

Masai Ujiri

Masai Ujiri, a Nigerian-Kenyan basketball executive, has left an inerasable stamp on the NBA landscape through his remarkable career filled with numerous accomplishments. Most notably, Ujiri played a pivotal role in guiding the Toronto Raptors to their historic first NBA Championship in franchise history in 2019, while serving as the team's President of Basketball Operations. His leadership and strategic vision were instrumental in transforming the Raptors into a championship-caliber team.

Ujiri's accolades span his tenure with the Raptors. In 2013, he was named the NBA Executive of the Year for his exceptional work as the General Manager of the Denver Nuggets, becoming the first African-born GM to receive this prestigious award. Throughout his career, Ujiri has demonstrated a keen eye for talent and a deep commitment to player development, contributing to the success of the teams he has been associated with.

Beyond the basketball court, Ujiri is renowned for his dedication to community engagement and philanthropy, particularly in Africa. Through his Giants of Africa foundation, he has empowered youth across the continent through basketball camps, leadership development programs, and educational initiatives. Ujiri's dedication to empowering the next generation of African leaders knows no bounds, showcasing the transformative influence of sports in fostering positive change.

Moreover, his expertise in global scouting has played a pivotal role in expanding the NBA's reach beyond North America and promoting international players, particularly from Africa. His efforts have helped NBA teams discover untapped talent from around the world, contributing to the league's global growth and diversity.

In essence, Masai Ujiri's career accomplishments surpasses just basketball, it encompasses his leadership, social responsibility, and a commitment to empowering communities. His legacy serves as an inspiration to aspiring athletes, executives, and philanthropists alike, embodying the values of excellence, integrity, and compassion.

Aisha Falode

Falode’s contributions to African sport, especially Nigerian football, exceeds mere athleticism. With a distinguished career as a journalist, including coverage of multiple FIFA World Cups, she has established herself as a beacon of innovation, philosophy, and inspiration within the realm of sports administration.

As the current President of the Nigeria Women Football League (NWFL), Falode has spearheaded transformative initiatives that have propelled women's football to new heights in Nigeria. Her visionary leadership has not only elevated the status of women's football within the country but has also garnered international recognition for its impact and effectiveness.

In addition to her significant contributions to football, Aisha Falode's advocacy for women's rights exceeds the boundaries of the football field. Her commitment to driving positive change and advancing the role of women in sports leadership is evident through her active participation in prestigious programs like the Women in Football Leadership Programme in Lausanne.

Through her advocacy efforts, the NWFL President strives to dismantle barriers and promote inclusivity within the realm of sports, ensuring that women have equal opportunities to excel and lead in various capacities. Her unwavering dedication to gender equality serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration for women across Africa, empowering them to pursue their passions and break through societal norms.

Falode's involvement in initiatives like the Women in Football Leadership Programme highlights her determination to effect meaningful change and create a more equitable and inclusive sports industry. By amplifying the voices of women and advocating for their representation at all levels of sports governance, Falode is paving the way for a brighter and more inclusive future for women in sports leadership roles.

Athletes Turned Entrepreneurs

Kanu Nwankwo

Affectionately known as Kanu, embodies the spirit of philanthropy and entrepreneurial vision. Renowned as a legendary Nigerian forward during his illustrious playing career, Kanu's impact stands at par with his footballing days. Following his retirement from professional football, he has embarked on a journey marked by remarkable achievements in both business and humanitarian endeavors.

Central to Kanu's legacy is the establishment of the Kanu Heart Foundation, a noble non-profit organization dedicated to providing life-saving heart surgeries for underprivileged children across Africa. Through this initiative, Kanu has demonstrated his unwavering commitment to making a tangible difference in the lives of those in need, embodying the values of compassion and generosity.

In July 2023, Kanu further solidified his influence in Nigerian football by assuming the role of Chairman at Enyimba Football Club, a move that reverberated throughout the sporting world. Under his leadership, Enyimba forged a groundbreaking partnership with, the world's leading cryptocurrency casino and sportsbook, as its primary shirt sponsor. This landmark multi-year agreement not only underscores Kanu's astute business vision but also paves the way for unprecedented growth and innovation within Nigerian football.

The partnership with promises to elevate Enyimba's profile on a global scale, with the Stake logo prominently displayed on the club's jerseys, digital platforms, and across the iconic Enyimba International Stadium. Additionally, the collaboration extends to encompass various hospitality, ticketing, and marketing rights, positioning Enyimba as a trailblazer in the realm of sports sponsorship.

Through his remarkable journey from football icon to humanitarian leader and visionary entrepreneur, Kanu Nwankwo continues to inspire millions around the world. This demonstrates that true greatness surpasses the limitations of sport and leaves behind a lasting legacy of hope, empowerment, and innovation.

Chioma Ajunwa

Ajunwa's journey from track and field excellence to entrepreneurial leadership embodies the spirit of resilience, innovation, and community impact. As a retired Nigerian long jump specialist, Ajunwa's athletic achievements have left an ingrained footprint on the world of sports, as she has seamlessly transitioned into entrepreneurship, leveraging her passion and expertise to drive positive change in Nigerian society.

At the heart of Ajunwa's entrepreneurial endeavors lies the Chioma Ajunwa Foundation, a testament to her unwavering commitment to youth development through sports and education. Through this foundation, Ajunwa channels her entrepreneurial spirit into impactful initiatives aimed at empowering young people to realize their full potential. From sports administration to coaching, Ajunwa's multifaceted approach to entrepreneurship reflects her dedication to nurturing talent and fostering a culture of excellence.

In addition to her philanthropic efforts, Ajunwa's role as a police officer in Nigeria further underscores her commitment to using sports as a catalyst for positive social change. As an advocate for youth empowerment and crime prevention, Ajunwa recognizes the transformative power of sports in building character, instilling discipline, and fostering community cohesion.

Indeed, Ajunwa's entrepreneurial journey serves as a shining example of how athletes can leverage their skills, influence, and resources to create meaningful change that surpasses the realm of sports. Her resilience, creativity, and dedication to making a difference inspire others to follow in her footsteps, demonstrating that entrepreneurship is not just about business success but also about leaving a lasting legacy of impact and empowerment.

Chiney Ogwumike

A Nigerian-American professional basketball player, leaving a memoir on the world of basketball with a remarkable career filled with numerous milestones and accolades. As a standout player at Stanford University, Ogwumike's talent and dedication earned her multiple awards and honors, including Pac-12 Player of the Year and two-time consensus All-American recognition. Her stellar collegiate career laid the foundation for a successful transition to the WNBA.

In her debut season in the WNBA in 2014, Ogwumike made an immediate impact, earning the prestigious Rookie of the Year award for her exceptional performance with the Connecticut Sun. Since then, she has been a consistent presence in the league, earning multiple selections to the WNBA All-Star Game and solidifying her reputation as one of the league's top talents.

Beyond her achievements on the court, the Los Angeles Sparks Forward has distinguished herself as a respected sports broadcaster, providing insightful commentary and analysis for prominent media outlets such as ESPN and NBC Sports. Her keen insights and articulate commentary have garnered praise from fans and fellow professionals alike, further cementing her status as a multifaceted talent in the world of sports media.

Off the court, Ogwumike is deeply committed to philanthropy and advocacy work, particularly in areas related to education, women's empowerment, and social justice. Her efforts to uplift and empower marginalized communities reflect her compassion and commitment to making a positive impact beyond basketball.

Chiney Ogwumike's career is a testament to excellence, leadership, and a tireless commitment to making a difference both on and off the basketball court. Her achievements serve as an inspiration to aspiring athletes and advocates around the world, embodying the values of hard work, perseverance, and compassion.

The Drivers of Change, The Breaker of Barriers

Chisom Mbonu-Ezeoke

Chisom's remarkable voyage in the sports industry is a testament to her resilience, determination, and pioneering spirit. Breaking barriers as the first female soccer analyst on the SuperSport network, she quickly established herself as a leading figure in sports media. Over the years, Chisom has expanded her repertoire to include basketball presentation before taking on the prestigious roles of anchoring coverage for Spain's LaLiga and the English Premier League, solidifying her position as the sole female anchor for SuperSport Nigeria. Known affectionately as "The Hot Stats Lady" on SuperSports analysis and the game show SuperPicks, Chisom demonstrates her expertise in statistics and facts with aplomb alongside a team of seasoned co-presenters. Her role as a prominent figure in sports analysis highlights her depth of knowledge and keen insights into the intricate details of the game.

However, it was her discovery of the FIFA agent licensing program that would open new doors for her in the world of sports representation. Determined to challenge the status quo, Chisom embarked on this journey, becoming the first Nigerian woman licensed to represent the country's players, despite being the sole woman in a room dominated by men during the licensing exam, she excelled with flying colors.

For Chisom, empowerment and advocacy extend beyond her professional endeavors. In 2016, she founded Akoni TV, an online platform dedicated to empowering women in sports journalism by providing them with the tools and resources to produce, edit, and write their own stories. Her visionary leadership also extends to advocacy for legislative reforms ensuring equal funding and training for women's sports teams, as well as the incorporation of sports programs in schools.

During her participation in the U.S. Department of State and espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program, Chisom had the opportunity to work with esteemed mentors, Jennifer Pransky and Lindsay Amstutz, who shared her passion for promoting women's empowerment through sports. Equipped with their guidance and support, Chisom returned home with a renewed focus on developing her business and sports management skills, fundraising acumen, and leadership abilities, poised to effect lasting change for Nigerian women through sports journalism and beyond.

Tega Onojaife

Onojaife's pathway into sports journalism is nothing short of remarkable, marked by her unwavering determination, pioneering spirit, and commitment to empowering women in the industry. Beginning her career as a soccer pundit, Onojaife quickly rose through the ranks, covering prestigious events such as the English Premier League, UEFA Champions League, and Africa Cup of Nations.

She has become a stalwart presence in Nigerian sports journalism, breaking barriers and inspiring a new generation of female professionals, alongside her numerous achievements in sports broadcasting, Onojaife has made significant contributions to the advancement of women in sports through her groundbreaking initiatives. In 2016, she founded the Ladies in Sports Conference, a transformative platform aimed at networking and empowering female sports professionals in Nigeria. Over the years, the conference has grown exponentially, attracting over 120 participants from Nigeria and beyond, including Kenya, Ethiopia, and Zambia.

Through strategic partnerships with organizations like La Liga in Spain and Women in Football in the United Kingdom, the conference has garnered international recognition and acclaim. Looking ahead, Onojaife envisioned and expanded the Ladies in Sports Conference into a three-day sports business forum by 2020, exposing businesses to the burgeoning market of women's sports and fostering greater gender equality and inclusivity in the industry.

Onojaife's trailblazing efforts have not gone unnoticed, earning her recognition as one of the most influential figures in Nigerian sport. Her inspiring journey, characterized by resilience, innovation, and advocacy, serves as a beacon of hope and empowerment for women across Africa and beyond. As she continues to break down barriers and champion gender equality in sports, Onojaife remains steadfast in her mission to empower women and create a more inclusive and equitable future for all.

Michael Emenalo

Emenalo's career epitomizes versatility and impact, showcasing his ability to excel in multiple domains within the world of football. From his days as a player to his influential roles in sports management and administration, orchestrating superstar signings at Stamford Bridge to now directing the trajectory of football in the Saudi Pro League for years to come.

Beginning his journey as a professional footballer, he showcased his talent on the field with Nigerian clubs like Enugu Rangers and Belgian club Molenbeek, as well as in the United States with the San Jose Clash (now San Jose Earthquakes) and Boston Bulldogs in Major League Soccer.

Upon retirement, Emenalo seamlessly transitioned into sports management and administration, where he made his most notable mark at Chelsea FC. Over a decade-long tenure, holding various key positions within the club, including Chief Scout, Assistant First Team Coach, and ultimately Technical Director. In this pivotal role, he played a significant part in shaping the club's footballing strategy, overseeing player recruitment, youth development, and contributing to Chelsea's success in winning multiple Premier League titles, FA Cups, and European trophies.

His eye for talent was evident in his role at Chelsea, where he was instrumental in the recruitment of top players such as Mohamed Salah, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, and N'Golo Kante, among others.

After departing Chelsea in 2017, Emenalo continued to make waves in the football world, taking on roles at other prominent clubs and organizations, including AS Monaco and Nordsjælland. Most recently, he has assumed a pivotal role in leading the Saudi Pro League project as director of football, a league backed by the Public Investment Fund (PIF) boasting $777 billion in assets under its management, the former Chelsea technical director has been brought in to centralize recruitment efforts and attract top talents to further enhance the league's profile on the global stage.

As he continues to exemplify his profound contributions to football, playing conductor to a global management audience. His legacy is defined by his unwavering dedication to player development, sports administration, and his enduring impact, He has unquestionably solidified his legacy as a memorable figure not only in football but also in its business history.

Rising Stars and Future Trends

Shola Akinlade

Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Paystack, has made a significant move in the world of football by acquiring a majority stake of 55%, in Aarhus Fremad, a second-division Danish club. This acquisition marks an exciting expansion of Akinlade's involvement in the football industry, complementing his existing venture, he founded Sporting Lagos FC, a Lagos-based football club competing in the first tier of the Nigerian Premier Football League.

The acquisition of Aarhus Fremad represents a strategic development in Akinlade's vision to bridge the gap between football clubs in Nigeria and international markets. By establishing a partnership between Aarhus Fremad and Sporting Lagos FC, Akinlade aims to facilitate cross-cultural exchange, talent development, and collaboration opportunities between the two clubs. With his extensive experience in entrepreneurship and innovation through Paystack, Akinlade brings a wealth of knowledge and resources to elevate the profile and success of both clubs on and off the field.

At the heart of Sporting Lagos' mission is its comprehensive youth development programs, designed to identify, train, and mentor aspiring footballers from diverse backgrounds. Through structured coaching, education, and support, the club provides a pathway for talented youngsters to realize their full potential and pursue professional careers in football.

Beyond its focus on player development, Sporting Lagos actively engages with the community through various grassroots initiatives aimed at promoting active lifestyles, fostering camaraderie, and instilling values of discipline and teamwork among participants. By leveraging football as a platform for social change and empowerment, the club plays a pivotal role in enriching the lives of individuals and communities across Lagos and beyond.

Sporting Lagos' impact aims farther than the realm of sports, as it enjoys the support of several tech-based companies eager to align their brands with the club's ethos of excellence and community engagement. With sponsors including Abeg, PiggyVest, Renmoney, and Helium Health, the club's matches serve as platforms for these companies to connect with audiences and promote their products and services in innovative ways.

According to Akinlade, the convergence of technology and sports presents new opportunities for brands to engage with consumers and support the development of the football ecosystem. By sponsoring Sporting Lagos, tech-based companies not only showcase their commitment to community development but also leverage the club's platform to reach a diverse audience of football enthusiasts and potential customers.

Through strategic partnerships, innovative sponsorship initiatives, and a steadfast commitment to player development, Akinlade aims to realize his dream of seeing players from Sporting Lagos represent Nigeria on the global stage, including the prestigious FIFA World Cup.

As Sporting Lagos continues to grow and evolve, its partnership with tech-based companies underscores the symbiotic relationship between sports and technology, paving the way for greater innovation, collaboration, and success in the dynamic landscape of Nigerian football.

Justina Aniefiok

Justina's route from footballer to sports photographer is a testament to her resilience, determination, and faith. Six years ago, she made the difficult decision to leave behind her dreams of playing football due to lack of support. However, this setback marked the beginning of a new chapter in her life—one defined by her passion for photography and her unwavering determination to succeed.

Her big break came when she was given the opportunity to cover the 2021 TotalEnergies CAF AFCON in Cameroon, which paved the way for her debut Women’s World Cup coverage in Australia & New Zealand in 2023, an inspiring moment she describes as her biggest breakthrough. Despite her initial fears and apprehensions, Justina entrusted everything to God and embraced the opportunity with courage and determination. Her hard work, talent, and dedication paid off as she showcased her photography skills to a larger audience, earning recognition and acclaim for her work.

Reflecting on her journey, Justina takes pride in her ability to overcome her fears and seize opportunities for growth and success. Her experience at the 2021 AFCON in Cameroon not only propelled her into the limelight but also served as a testament to her resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity.

Justina's ambition knows no bounds, as she sets her sights on reaching new heights in her photography career. Speaking to SWA Sports at the recently concluded AFCON 2023 in the Ivory Coast, she articulated her unwavering determination to elevate her craft and break into the biggest stages of sports photography.

With a relentless drive to succeed, Justina said, “I aspire to still cover prestigious events such as the Spanish La Liga, the English Premier League, and the UEFA Champions League one day, the pinnacle of club football competitions”. Her passion for capturing the essence of the game and telling compelling stories through her lens fuels her ambition to showcase her talents on the global stage.

As she embarks on this journey towards her goals, her commitment to excellence and her willingness to push boundaries set her apart as a rising star in the world of sports photography. With each opportunity she seizes and each challenge she overcomes, she brings herself closer to realizing her dreams and leaving a lasting impact on the world of sports photography.


Indeed, the stories of these individuals highlight the remarkable impact of Nigerians in the realm of African sports business. Their achievements not only exemplify excellence and innovation but also serve as sources of inspiration for the next generation of entrepreneurs, athletes, and sports industry professionals in Nigeria and beyond.

From pioneering initiatives in sports administration and youth empowerment to transformative ventures in sports media, technology, and philanthropy, these individuals have demonstrated the immense potential and possibilities within the African sports landscape. Their dedication, resilience, and visionary leadership have not only propelled their own success but have also paved the way for others to follow in their footsteps and make their mark in the industry.

As Nigeria continues to emerge as a hub of sports innovation and entrepreneurship, these success stories underscore the importance of nurturing talent, fostering collaboration, and creating opportunities for growth and development. By celebrating the achievements of these trailblazers and supporting the aspirations of future generations, we can unlock the full potential of Nigerian sports and contribute to the advancement of African sports business on the global stage.

With a spirit of determination, creativity, and collaboration, the future of Nigerian sports business is bright, and these individuals stand as shining examples of what can be achieved with passion, perseverance, and a commitment to excellence, indeed they are GAME CHANGERS.

By Ayo Adams, SWA Sports