News Archive | Hope 4 Girls Africa

From Nigeria to Northwestern

Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah never considered playing Division I basketball while growing up in Nigeria. Now she’s poised to become one of the Big Ten’s best.

Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah never considered playing Division I basketball while growing up in Nigeria.

The junior forward’s journey to the United States began in a gym in her hometown of Abuja, the country’s capital. Kunaiyi-Akpanah was getting shots up when Mobolaji Akiode, founder of Hope 4 Girls Africa, spotted her and was intrigued. Akiode’s Lagos-based organization is dedicated to giving underserved young African women an opportunity to play organized basketball….

Source: Northwestern Magazine


Olamide Aborowa: “Basketball Found Me”

Olamide Aborowa arrived in Austin with nothing more than a duffel bag and a backpack. 

It was a tangible reminder of how far she had come despite having so little. 

There’s no denying the dearth of material items she has possessed over the years. But Aborowa has never been short on opportunities, which she has fearlessly seized no matter how far they took her away from her home in Lagos, Nigeria. 

Accustomed to solitude, Aborowa embarked on what has become a nearly 7,000-mile journey from her home. She first made her way to Philadelphia and Saints John Neumann and Maria Goretti Catholic High School where she won a state championship, and then on to Austin, where she begins the 2016-17 season as a sophomore on The University of Texas women’s basketball team….

Source: University of Texas


Duke Starter – Onome Akinbode-James

When a brilliant 14-year-old steps onto a basketball court to play for the first time, anything can happen. She could quit after one day or she could start a rise to the top of the college basketball universe in a mere four years.

Freshman Onome Akinbode-James wound up the latter.

Now, her Ivy League-caliber mind and her ACC-level athleticism are succeeding on and off the Cameron Indoor Stadium floor…..

Source: The Chronicle – Spencer Levy


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.”


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.