As global attention shifts to the continent of Africa, America’s most valuable sports league, the NFL, is following suit with a focus on Africa. The NFL released its 2024 Super Bowl commercial at the Super Bowl game LVIII, featuring three of the league’s top stars running, jumping, and catching passes in the bustling Makola Market Accra (Ghana) the city’s largest market. This move is part of the NFL’s strategy to expand its global brand, including expansion into Africa with NFL Africa.
During the NFL’s Spring Meeting in 2022, the Philadelphia Eagles received marketing rights in Ghana through the International Home Marketing Area program. This initiative allows clubs to tap into international territories for marketing, fan engagement, and commercialization. It represents a significant, long-term strategic effort to enable clubs to build their global brands and drive international NFL fan growth.
On June 21, 2022, the NFL hosted its first official event in Africa, in Ghana – NFL Africa: The Touchdown. This event encompassed various activities, including a talent identification camp, a fan event, and a flag football clinic. It highlights the NFL’s dedication to developing new ways to engage its expanding fan base across the continent.
The League, boasting over 100 players of African descent (either born in Africa or as first-generation Americans), is committed to showcasing the contributions of its African players. It aims to introduce the sport to a new generation of fans and plans to expand its reach into other African countries in the future.
In January 2024, the League announced its International Player Pathway (IPP) program Class of 2024, which features 11 athletes from around the world.
Osi Umenyiora, who leads the NFL’s Africa program, commented on the 2024 IPP class: “The IPP Class of 2024 presents a group of incredibly talented athletes from diverse sporting backgrounds and nations across the globe. Our international football development programs at the NFL offer life-changing opportunities for talent, and they will continue to have a significant impact on the league this season and in future seasons. This is just the beginning for these players, and we eagerly anticipate sharing their stories and the game of football with the world.”
Since its inception, 37 international players have signed with NFL teams, either allocated, drafted, or signed as free agents. Currently, 18 athletes from the International Player Pathway (IPP) program are on NFL rosters. Five players—Jordan Mailata, Jakob Johnson, Efe Obada, Sammis Reyes, and David Bada—have been active on the rosters of the Philadelphia Eagles, Las Vegas Raiders, and Washington Commanders since the program’s start in 2017.
Players are set to begin training in January at the IMG Academy in the United States and will have the opportunity to showcase their talents to NFL club scouts in March.
The league is committed to its diversity efforts and has celebrated International Diversity with the NFL Heritage Program during weeks 7 and 8 of the 2023 season.
Some current NFL players of African descent include Uchenna Nwosu of the Seattle Seahawks (Nigeria), Ogbonnia Okoronkwo of the Houston Texans (Nigeria), Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah of the Cleveland Browns (Ghana), and Kwity Paye of the Indianapolis Colts (Liberia). NFL Legends such as Mathias Kiwanuka (Uganda), Roman Oben (Cameroon), and Osi Umenyiora (Nigeria) are also notable.