Rwanda is set to host part of the upcoming season of the Basketball Africa League (BAL). This will be the third consecutive time for the country to host the NBA-sponsored continental showpiece. As usual, this year’s edition will feature 12 teams from different countries, six of which will pass through qualifiers while the other six, including Rwanda Energy Group (REG), have an automatic ticket to the tournament. The qualifiers will take place in October across four African cities. As the continent looks forward to the tournament, Times Sport sat down with John-Manyo Plange, the Vice President and Head of Strategy and Operations at the BAL, who talked to us about his assessment of the previous editions of the BAL, and what is in store for the upcoming one, among other things. Read the excerpts: Let us start this interview by asking you about your assessment of the previous edition of the BAL. How successful was it? We have to start from season one, especially when we are talking about the work that we did here in Kigali, being able to launch a brand new African brand in the middle of a pandemic. With all the logistical issues that we had, the fact that we chose Rwanda to do that was significant. The infrastructure, the support from the government, the ability of both the private and the public sector to come into play and to really support us was incredible. Then taking that season one success into season two where now we are out of the pandemic, in the sense that we didn’t have to play in a bubble format, which means we could do all the things that we, from the BAL standpoint want to do to engage with our fans. And when you see all the business functions that happened around the games, the crowd interactions that we had with the fans, and then culminated by the final, where we filled out the BK Arena. I mean, it was Spectacular. Rwanda has hosted the tournament two times, how do you rate the country as far as hosting is concerned? And how good is Rwanda as an environment for the BAL? It’s been fantastic, and we look forward to building on that success. The support from the government, the support from the public, the support from the private sector has been huge. And I think this sort of highlights to the world that these kinds of activities really should be coming to the African continent and Rwanda is positioned in a significant way to host these things. Tell us about some of the new things that might be introduced in the upcoming season. We will see. I can’t share too much because you know, we have a cadence of announcements that we will be putting out. But rest assured that we are going to really look at doing more things to engage fans, having tickets to be available for purchase a lot earlier, and really building on the success of that final game that we had here. We know that the place is buzzing, waiting for us to come back and we really are going to be able to give the fans what they want. Are you bringing more partners onboard? It’s a work in progress. We are looking to see which partners make sense for us strategically, to bring on board. So, once they come on board fully, we will definitely have a slate of announcements that we will put out. And I think where we are going to be focused as well is really ramping up the entertainment value. I think we did a great job of doing that for season two, especially compared to season one where fans weren’t really allowed inside the arena. But moving forward for season three is going to be bigger. You have a couple of deals here, for example with Visit Rwanda. To what extent has the business environment across Africa responded to the BAL? It has been a slow burn, right? Basketball historically hasn’t been the biggest sport here.But I think when we started playing here, and the work that the teams here have done, it’s really starting to take hold. And you can see that by some of the crowds that you have in the local league games. I know REG just won the league here and will be representing. And so the kinds of crowds that are now starting to come out for those games means that there’s a lot more opportunity for the business community to get engaged. You can also note that a partner like BK is now the title sponsor for the Arena. And that is part and parcel of the fact that bigger and larger events are starting to come here and the business community is starting to take notice of that. Are there things in particular that you are doing to reach out to more African markets? Definitely. Look, the BAL is a Pan-African league, and we really aim to have a lot more activation, more widely spread. And keep in mind, even though currently the actual BAL tournament is a three-month league, there’s also the precursor to that, the road to the BAL, which FIBA puts on in collaboration with us. And that’s about to start this coming month in October. And so that extends out the storytelling for African basketball at the club level. In addition, we are also going to do a lot more activation around the continent to make this a 12 month a year property.