Masai Ujiri, President of the Toronto Raptors and Co-founder of Giants of Africa, has shared insights on how President Paul Kagame sparked the idea behind the now-iconic BK Arena, which has played a pivotal role in advancing Rwanda’s sports industry.
Speaking on Saturday, August 26 at a side event of the Nigerian Governors’ Executive Leadership Retreat, organized by the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) and UN Development Programme (UNDP) and themed “Re-imagining Leadership in a Fast-changing World,” Ujiri recounted the role President Kagame played in the arena’s inception.
The discussions centered on digital and socio-economic transformation, local revenue generation, managing diversity and social cohesion, urbanization, and climate change.
During a conversation with the Head of State, Ujiri recalled how President Kagame, in a contemplative moment, inquired about the costs associated with constructing an arena of BK Arena’s caliber.
“He built that arena, you see. He also started building the football stadium. And when you think of the ecosystem that surrounds it, with concerts, games, and patrons frequenting restaurants, buying merchandise, and visiting sports bars, we must recognize the financial potential sports offers,” Ujiri emphasized.
BK Arena is a sports and events facility with a 10,000-seat capacity, ranking among the top 10 indoor sports venues on the continent and representing the largest such venue in Eastern Africa. Occupying a sprawling 28,000-square-meter plot, the arena boasts a parking lot capable of accommodating over 600 vehicles.
Ujiri challenged participants to consider how they could harness the fact that teams like Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, and Chelsea boast the majority of their fans in Africa, turning this fandom into a source of revenue.
“It is our players whom we often see in these teams… I want sports to thrive, and I want us to believe in our sports fans and the genuine business opportunities that sports can offer,” Ujiri asserted.
The Vision of Zaria Court
Ujiri also shared details about the Zaria Court project, an innovative facility set to include an 80-room boutique hotel, restaurants, rooftop lounges, fitness centers, wellness spaces, co-working areas, and a podcast studio. This project will be situated in Gisimenti, directly across from Airtel’s headquarters.
Upon its anticipated completion in early 2025, Zaria Court will be the first of its kind on the African continent. It is poised to become a hub for social and cultural gatherings, drawing sports enthusiasts, influencers, and Africa’s burgeoning middle class.
A Vibrant Sports and Entertainment District
Notably, Zaria Court will be located within Kigali’s burgeoning sports and entertainment district, complementing modern facilities like the BK Arena and the soon-to-be-completed Amahoro stadium.
With these developments, Rwanda’s sports and entertainment landscape is poised to flourish, offering tremendous economic prospects and enhancing the nation’s global standing in the world of sports.