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NBA Pushes to Tap Africa’s Young, New Smartphone Users

  • Helios Fairfax has invested in new $1 billion African entity
  • U.S. basketball content is now sold in small, affordable parts
Grant Hill playing for the  Los Angeles Clippers in Los Angeles, California, in 2013.
Grant Hill playing for the  Los Angeles Clippers in Los Angeles, California, in 2013.Photographer: Harry How/Getty Images
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The National Basketball Association Inc.’s plan to tap African fans and new players in the world’s most youthful continent spurred billionaire Prem Watsa-backed private equity firm to invest in the franchise at a valuation of $1 billion.

Helios Fairfax Partners Corp. took a small stake in the U.S. sport’s African entity last year -- at first glance a curious choice for a firm that has broadly focused on telecoms through Helios Towers Plc or gas stations via Vivo Energy Plc. Yet the opportunities for growth of the sport are huge, Chief Executive Officer Tope Lawani said in an interview.