Mobolaji Akiode’s passion ignites her purpose for African female athletes

Mobolaji Akiode is the type of passionate individual who makes others better by her very presence alone. The sort whose palpable aura of determination is understood just through hearing her speak. Yet, it has been a combination of Akiode’s unrelenting passion for success and commanding presence that has created a life full of purpose both on the basketball court during her time as a star player at the Division I and international levels, and with the non-profit organization she started in 2010 called Hope 4 Girls.

“I can remember during her freshman year (at Fordham University), the team was down by two points against Marist with one second left and Mobo was at the line for two shots,” recalled Eric Sanders, Akiode’s academic adviser at Fordham. “She made the first, but missed the second, then took off right for the bus crying because she thought it was her fault that the team lost the game. She was that kind of passionate leader.”

That fiery spirit is the reason, in part, why the 32-year-old American-born Nigerian found herself on espnW’s inaugural Impact 25 list of the most impactful people for women’s sports in 2014……..


Source: Mobolaji Akiode’s passion ignites her purpose for African female athletes –


Seven Questions with Mobolaji Akiode, Sports Activist for Women

Mobolaji Akiode, CBA ’04, likes a good challenge. From playing on the 2004 Nigerian national team that earned Africa’s first-ever Olympic
women’s basketball win to starting her own nonprofit, she attacks each new endeavor with equal measures of hard work and positive  attitude.  After working as an accountant at ESPN, Akiode returned to her native Nigeria to found Hope 4 Girls Africa, through which she is working to impart her can-do spirit to a whole new generation of African women, helping them build confidence and identity through the power of sports. Sports have become such a big part of your life.

How did you get into basketball in the first place?
I used sports to fit in. I moved to America when I was nine, and the adjustment was really difficult. I was tall for my age, so the girls in gym
class asked me to play basketball. I learned so much through sports; sports allowed me to develop my personality. Fortunately, basketball
took me to greater heights than I ever could have imagined. But I played because I loved it—the friends I met, the travel, everything.

Speaking of greater heights, what was it like to play at the Olympics?
Really, it was the craziest thing. You have the greatest athletes in the world living together on what is basically like a college campus. For  someone like me, who came from a humble background, there’s nothing greater than the Olympics. It gives you this confidence that you can really achieve anything.

What’s your vision for Hope 4 Girls Africa?
It’s not just basketball. Hope 4 Girls Africa is about the empowerment of  young women. We’re using sports as a tool for teaching Nigerian women the ability to triumph and fail, teamwork, accountability, leadership, and so much more. We have one girl who got accepted to college and just didn’t have the money to pay. My goal is to create a foundation that will support kids who need a little help. Fortunately, the
price of education in Africa is such that it’s possible to send ten kids to school for a couple thousand dollars. The possibility for changing lives for the better is definitely there.

Why do you think sports help peoplefind their niche?
Sports don’t discriminate. They don’t say, “You’re poor, so you can’t play,” or “you’re ugly” or whatever. They’re classless. They take in all who come, and in their purest form, sports are a powerful way to unite people. There’s nothing better than being a part of something like that, especially for girls coming from tough backgrounds.

You’re such a powerful role model. Who’s served in that role for you?
I spoke a few years ago at a Fordham panel for student-athletes. Christine Driessen (CBA ’77), executive vice president and chief financial officer of ESPN, was there and fell in love with the speech. She knew I was looking for a job, and I studied accounting, which is one of her areas at ESPN. The rest, as they say, is history. I look at her as a great role model, especially as a woman who has reached the level she has in sports, which is always a male-dominated field. I’ve always aspired to do that in my country and continent.

It must have been quite a speech. 
I think I still have it somewhere. I’m going to frame it. That is the speech that changed my life. Seriously.

What’s next for you?
I’m going to retire by 30 (laughs). Seriously, I’ve always been drawn to the plight of Africa. As much as I love America for the opportunities, I think we need to bring that kind of thing back home, so people can stay in Africa and say, “I’m happy to be here, happy to grow up here, and I’ve had great chances to be something special here.”

H4G Ogun Article

Hope 4 Girls Task Daniels, Donates To Charity

National Basketball Star and Olympian, Mobolaji Akiode presents gift to Otumba Gbenga Daniel during a courtesy call paid on the Ogun State Governor by participants  of the Hope 4 Girls Africa Foundation.  H4G is a nongovernmental organization founded by Akiode to promote the game of basketball and cater for the needs of young girls in Nigeria.  The inaugural camp was held in Abeokuta.


Out of Africa

Grayson Community College gets a boost from Star Imports.  Nigerian natives Uju Ugoka and Ijeoma Uchendu have played  a huge role in returning Grayson Community College to the NCAA Women’s National tournament. Both freshmen are members of their country’s national junior’s team


ESPN Documentary Celebrates Hope for Girls

Mobolaji Akiode, CBA ’04, founder of the nonprofit Hope 4 Girls Africa, is the subject of the ESPN special Her Story: Ten Times Over. The half-hour show, narrated by Robin Roberts of Good Morning America, takes its name from a Nigerian proverb—“What you give, you get ten times over.” It focuses on Akiode’s work teaching and empowering young Nigerian girls through basketball.

A native of Nigeria, Akiode was a standout on the Fordham women’s basketball team. She later played on Nigeria’s 2004 national team, the first African women’s basketball team to earn a victory in Olympic competition.

Her Story is scheduled to air on Sunday, April 4, at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN. It will be rebroadcast on ESPNU on Thursday, April 8, at 5:30 p.m., and several times on ESPN Classic: Tuesday, April 6, at 7 p.m.; Thursday, May 20, at 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.; Wednesday, June 9, at 12:30 p.m.; and Thursday, June 10, at 9:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.



Rebounding and passing.

That’s all Uju Ugoka knew about the game of basketball when she attended her first Hope 4 Girls Africa basketball camp in West Africa. Run by Mobolaji Akiode, a former standout women’s basketball player at Fordham University and a member of the Nigerian national teams that competed in the Summer Olympics in 2000 and 2004, the camps were an opportunity for young women to develop their skills and, possibly, earn a chance for an even bigger opportunity.

“When I heard about the camp, I was so excited because it was going to open an opportunity for me to follow my dream [of playing basketball in college in the United States],” Ugoka said. “I went to the camp and I worked as hard as I could to impress the scouts, and I learned a lot.”

Four years later, Hope 4 Girls has given Ugoka an opportunity to accomplish exactly what Akiode intended when she started the program to give back to young women in Africa.

After stops at Grayson County College in Denison, Texas, and at Gulf Coast State College in Panama City, Fla., Ugoka’s career has taken off as a member of the Virginia Tech women’s basketball team. Through 16 games, Ugoka is leading Virginia Tech (10-6, 0-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) in scoring (19.4 points per game), rebounding (10.3 per game), and field-goal percentage (53.9 percent). The 6-foot-1 forward from Lagos, Nigeria, has either led or tied for the team lead in scoring in 12 of the Hokies’ games. She had a career-high 32 points in a loss at Indiana on Dec. 4.

“Basketball means a lot for me,” said Ugoka, who is the fifth of eight children (five sisters, two brothers). “I love the game of basketball, and I want to help my family through playing basketball. I want to use the game of basketball to try to play professionally so I can make money and help them in any way I can.”

Ugoka’s dreams of playing professionally are taking shape. She earned first-team NJCAA All-America honors as a freshman at Grayson County College, but she transferred after that school disbanded its basketball programs after the 2010-11 season. As a sophomore, she averaged 17 points and nine rebounds at Gulf Coast State College, earning conference player of the year honors and first-team NJCAA All-America honors.

Last season, Ugoka played in 17 games (10 starts) and was second on the team in scoring (12.5 ppg) and first in rebounding (8.5). But Virginia Tech coach Dennis Wolff said Ugoka’s game has improved significantly in the past year.

Ugoka’s improvement as a basketball player and desire to give back are two ways she resembles her benefactor. Akiode was a standout at Fordham from 1999-2003. She finished her career ranked in the top 10 all-time in scoring and rebounding with 1,167 points and 554 rebounds. The epiphany she had in creating Hope 4 Girls, a nonprofit organization based in the United States, was to give young women in Africa an opportunity through basketball and education. Now more than four years old, Hope 4 Girls continues to give basketball instruction and to offer life lessons.

“She was a ball of energy and talented and funny,” Akiode said of her first impressions of Ugoka at the camp in 2009. “She just stood out. There were a ton of kids, so it is hard to remember everyone because there were 60-70 kids at once, but I just remember her making me laugh and playing like a crazy person on the court.”

A sociology major with a 3.5 GPA, Ugoka said she would like to stay in the United States and return to Nigeria to continue to help her family. In addition to playing professional basketball, Ugoka said she wants to work as a scouting agent. She said she also would like to get involved in efforts like Akiode’s that help provide young women and men with opportunities to make better lives for themselves, their families and their communities.



DANA POINT, Calif. — espnW and Toyota on Wednesday announced an exciting addition to the espnW Women + Sports Summit — the Everyday Heroes program.

The program, which honors women who are working to promote and grow sports for girls and women in their local communities, was launched in earnest during a special presentation during the fourth annual Summit in Dana Point, Calif.

Barb Lazarus
Lazarus, who was a four-sport athlete in high school, has dedicated the past eight years to creating opportunities for girls in Chicago through Game On! Sports Camps 4 Girls, program that holds summer camps that help empower girls (ages 4-14) to develop or enhance their passion for sports. In addition to the camps, Lazarus also created the Game On! Foundation, which raises funds to help young girls gain more opportunities through sports.

Mobolaji Akiode
Akiode grew up playing basketball and graduated as Fordham’s sixth all-time leading scorer. After graduating from college, she played professional basketball in Europe and for the Nigerian national team. It was that time with Nigeria that sparked Akiode’s dream to build the Hope 4 Girls foundation, which focuses on instilling discipline, developing leadership skills, promoting pro-social friendships and reasserting a sense of hope in the future amongst girls from less privileged backgrounds. Since its launch in March 2010, Hope 4 Girls has opened its doors to girls from Ghana and Benin Republic and helped girls secure student athletic scholarships.

Justine Siegal
Siegal, a pioneer in the baseball community, was the first woman to throw batting practice for an MLB team and coach a men’s pro team. Using her milestones as inspiration, Siegal founded Baseball For All, a program that provides meaningful opportunities in baseball, especially for girls.





Opportunity equals growth, at least in Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah’s book.

Whether it’s by pursuing creative writing, poetry or athletics, the 6-foot-3 high school junior from Nigeria with “off-the-charts” potential on the basketball court knows she has plenty of paths that could help her forge a better life.

But the self-described “introvert” with a “malleable” personality didn’t always see it that way.

Since coming to the United States from Africa about a year and a half ago, Kunaiyi-Akpanah has discovered she is much more than the shy teenager who knew little about basketball and even less about herself. And the junior center at Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School in Rabun Gap, Ga., now understands that, with hard work, she has the power not only to alter the course of her own life, but also to set an example for other girls back home.

“I have had things handed to me to start off,” Kunaiyi-Akpanah said. “Now I am handing stuff to myself and I am achieving things for [myself].”

Kunaiyi-Akpanah received a chance to come to the United States largely due to the efforts of Hope 4 Girls founder Mobolaji Akiode, a former standout women’s basketball player at Fordham and a member of the Nigerian national teams that competed in the Olympics in 2000 and 2004. The camp teaches young women life skills, gives them a place to develop their basketball skills and, possibly, to earn an even bigger opportunity.

In only her second season at Rabun Gap, a college preparatory and boarding school two hours northwest of Atlanta, Kunaiyi-Akpanah is doing just that. Rabun Gap has a 20-4 record and plays in the Georgia semifinals on Thursday. Auburn, Georgia Tech, Northwestern, Ohio State, Oklahoma, South Florida, Southern Mississippi, Virginia Tech and Washington are just some of the schools that have shown an interest in Kunaiyi-Akpanah, Rabun Gap girls’ basketball coach Dale Earnhardt said.

“I think she sees [basketball] as a means to an end to get a great education,” Earnhardt said of Kunaiyi-Akpanah, who also plays volleyball at the school. “I think she enjoys [basketball]. I don’t think she realizes how good she can be and she isn’t thinking much after that. Her initial goal is ‘What college am I going to go to?’ She knows that is her ticket to get it paid for.”

Kunaiyi-Akpanah arrived on campus in October 2012 after the students had been in school for more than a month. Earnhardt remembers the first workout with her and how “raw” she was as a basketball player. He said she averaged 6 to 8 points per game and 10 to 12 rebounds a game last season on a team that went 16-9.

This season, Earnhardt has seen Kunaiyi-Akpanah make significant strides. Not only is she averaging 10 points and 12 rebounds per game, but he also has seen her develop more confidence, which has helped her speak out and lose some of the shyness she had when she arrived.

Despite an emerging game, Kunaiyi-Akpanah isn’t going to get lost in basketball. She said she envisions pursuing a professional basketball career or using a degree in business or finance to get a job in the U.S. Either way, she believes her hard work down either path will show her two younger brothers and sister how hard they need to work to make something of themselves. As much as she wants to accomplish those things for herself, she wants to show her siblings and girls like her in Nigeria what they can do if they have hope in themselves and if they use their voices to make a name for themselves.

“I just feel the need to be able to handle myself and take this opportunity God has given me and make the most out of it,” Kunaiyi-Akpanah said. “I will be proud of myself because I know I will have achieved it and nothing has been handed to me. I have achieved my own goals.”


Nigeria: Hope for Girls Camp Ends in Lagos

Lagos — The second edition of “Hope For Girls”, a basketball clinic, for girls came to a befitting end Sunday at the Rowe Park, Yaba, Lagos. The annual programme, which is the brainchild of America based former Nigerian international basketball player, Mobolaji Akiode, started last week with about 50 girls who are under 20 years of age. Also, 150 secondary schools from different states of Nigeria plus also girls from Benin Republic and Mali attended the clinic.

Hope For Girls was set up primarily by Miss Akiode to empower girls from poor family backgrounds but who have the potential of making it in life through basketball. Her goal was both simple and grand: to use sports, particularly basketball camps, to inspire and empower impoverished young women, first in Nigeria and then throughout the African continent.
“Women are seen as second-class citizens in most parts of the continent. But in reality, this is not so. Women can excel in areas where men do. Akiode began noticing the disparities during visits to Nigeria while she was a member of the national and Olympic teams. “I just got heartbroken when I saw that things that helped me as a young girl are no longer in place,” she says.

Rowe Park, which served as venue for the one-week camp was a beehive of activity all through the event. There were three sessions daily in the mornin and evenings for campers and secondary school kids. These included seminars, self-defence class, a motivational speak from Mr Saheed Kekere Ekun and career talk by educationist, Mrs Catherine Bickerseth of Strategic Educational Advisory group.
At the end of the event, participants expressed appreciation to Miss Akiode and wished all Nigerians would join hands with her in giving hope to a lot of girls who are in the streets. Miss Akiode who left her job as an accountant with ESPN to set up Hope For Girls in Nigeria has appealed to well meaning Nigerians, the corporate world and Non Govermental Organisations (NGO) as well as various levels of governments in the country to come to her aid to keep her pet project alive.
“I’ve done my best making sure that some less privileged girls in our society don’t waste away, through this Hope For Girls camp. But how much longer I can carry on will depend on how much support I get from governments, the private sector and Nigerians generally.
For now, I can thank my team who have supported me all the way, and I cannot forget the Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) for his support.


Hope 4 Girls’ bounces into Lagos

After having a successful campaign in its debut camp programme in Ogun State last year, the ‘Hope 4 Girls’ Basket Foundation programme has invited 55 girls in and around Nigeria to take part in the second camping exercise in Lagos.  A brain child of former Nigerian basketball player, Mobolaji Akiode, ‘Hope 4 Girls’ is dedicated to the increased participation and empowerment of disadvantaged young African women in sports and education.  Because of the initiative and the desire to help the coming generation of women, Akiode quit her accounting job at American Cable sports company, ESPN and returned to Nigeria to set up the basketball camp to help young girls in the country. She had been a member of the 2004 Nigerian Olympic basketball team.

The dream
She currently dedicates herself to empowering girls in Africa by lifting them out of poverty through sports. The girls in her camps travel from all over the country to learn not only basketball skills, but life skills as well.  “Our target group is young African women particularly Nigerians between the ages of 12 to 19 years. We aim to provide opportunities for these young women to display and develop character, intellect, and athletic ability through ‘Hope 4 Girls’ sports camps, learning workshops, and other empowerment programs” Akiode said.

Unlike the first edition made solely of Nigerian girls , this year’s edition will have seven girls from neighbouring West African countries in attendance which to Akiode is a testimony to the success of the programmes thus far. “Girls from Benin Republic, Togo and Guinea Bissau and other countries were begging to be a part of this season’s programme, though some don’t even speak English, we just had to admit a  few girls amongst them” she said. Interestingly also, some NBA Stars are expected to come in to help the girls learn some rudiments of the game.

Guest collaborators
The girls will have the opportunity of learning from NBA stars like Hassem Tabeet; from Tanzania who plays for the Memphis Grizzlies. He will be joined by the new Nigerian sensation; Solomon Alabi of the Toronto Raptors, and Massai Ujiri; all part of the NBA basketball without borders team heading for Senegal. Explaining her reason for deciding to help out the girls on the court, Akiode said that her exposure during her playing career lead her to the present choice of assignment.
“I want to see more girls pursuing an education. I want girls to believe in themselves. I want them to be inspired to be great. We want to use the platform of sports to help these young girls find their way out of their undesired situations and grow to be inspiring women. That’s our goal for not only the girls of Nigeria but girls all over” she said. According to Akiode some of the players who participated at the last edition of the programme have already been offered scholarships in some colleges in the United State while she is also hoping that more will be selected to pursue not only a career in basketball but also in academics.

The clinic will run in Lagos from Wednesday, July 28- August 1, 2010.